SMC to Take Part in China Cultural Exchange

With the summer Olympics over and the Michael Phelps mania becoming yesterday's news, China will once again get the opportunity to serve as gracious hosts and keep the international spotlight as Santa Monica College has been extended the privilege to take part in a cultural exchange with Shandong University of Arts in the Jinan Province in October.

"We are very honored that this is taking place," said Dr. Chui L. Tsang, President of SMC, as this latest collaboration further highlights his efforts to promote global citizenship.

In an interview with the Corsair, Tsang described his excitement for the 20 SMC students selected to participate in the festivities at Shandong that will span Oct. 10-19. "They will learn. They will broaden their attitude and their understanding of the world and how to interact," he said.

To help commemorate the 50th anniversary of Shandong University, 18 SMC theater arts students along with instructors Perviz Sawoski and Terrin Adair-Lynch, have been given the opportunity to put on a showcase while in China that best represents the American culture.

The production entitled "American Reflections," which will run at SMC the weekend of Oct. 3 before the troupe departs to China, will be a vibrant medley of Broadway musical numbers that provides an incisive yet colorful perspective of the arts in America.

"I hope it's a first and not the only," said Sawoski of this historic collaboration between SMC and Shandong.

Aside from Shandong's half-century merriment, the cultural exchange entitled "Partners in Creativity" will also observe the International Artistic Exchange Month. "Any chance to participate in cultural exchange opportunities is a wonderful way to expand one's understanding of the world and of one's own culture," said Nancy Grass-Hemmert, Professor of communication at SMC who will serve as faculty leader of the program." This initial exchange is hopefully going to be the first in many exchanges with Shandong as we build a relationship with the University," she said.

This partnership comes at a crucial time for China when it seems that the nation is attempting to dispel any negative images and hearsay but rather step back into the international forum with added positivity. That being the case, the SMC community going could experience a more genuine taste of Chinese culture first-hand and likewise transmit a more genuine American image to our partners at Shandong, something that Grass-Hemmert deeply hopes for.

"I would like Santa Monica College to help improve the U.S. image abroad," she said via e-mail. Additionally, she too would like programs like this to be an ongoing testament to SMC's diverse community and understanding of other cultures.

"I hope that each of the participants comes home from this exchange not only understanding Chinese culture a little more, but to also understand cultural differences in general a bit better. I would love to see this experience lead to not only improved intercultural communication when abroad, but right here at SMC where we have our own global population," said Grass-Hemmert.

"I'm excited to impact their idea of us as a culture," said Darren Giglio, one of the students representing in the theater arts at Shandong after his first Chinese Humanities course Friday, which SMC provided for those going to familiarize and impart them a better understanding of Chinese culture in today's context.

As SMC's relationship with Shandong is further enhanced with this program, Tsang emphasizes his excitement over this unique joint venture. "We are very happy with the relationship we have with them which led to this development and we hope to continue this for the future," he said.

Despite the obvious cultural differences and messages inherently embedded to both nations about the other, Tsang and those involved hope for a more harmonious and accepting outcome with this endeavor . The aim is "not to promote global citizenship, but to provide it," said Tsang.

For further developments on SMC's China exchange, check out the Corsair's on-going coverage and tune into the Corsair Online.