Katie Keith(‘15) returns from Harvard with new ideas and a mission
By Angela True
In an initiative to foster greater understanding of Chinese culture, the first Project Pengyou event will be held at Lewis & Clark on Nov. 20. Project Pengyou ( Mandarin for ‘friend’), is a joint effort between the Chinese Golden Bridges Foundation and President Obama’s 100,000 Strong Initiative, which aims to increase and diversify the number of American students studying in China through a network of Project Pengyou chapters on college campuses.
LC now hosts a chapter of their own, thanks to the work of Katie Keith(‘15), who was selected to be a Project Pengyou Leadership Fellow this year. She and 39 other fellows from across the United States attended a leadership conference at Harvard University, led by Harvard Business School professor Marshall Ganz.
Keith hopes to help reshape Americans’ negative perceptions of China. Before coming to LC, Keith had no experience with China or Chinese culture, but after extensive study of the Chinese language as well as her travels abroad to the country, she realized the importance of familiarity with one of America’s largest trading partners.
“The East Asian Studies department as a whole really opened my eyes to this whole new culture that I had never been exposed to in high school, and that’s a huge problem in the U.S” Keith said. “We emphasize European and Western history, and yet, we’re missing this whole component of the world…”
Keith, who was the only Project Pengyou Leadership Fellow from Oregon, hopes that future LC students will continue to participate at the conference, and bring their experiences back to campus.
“We were in training from about 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day for the four days I was there,” Keith said. “[The program] was a lot of developing public speaking habits, learning how to build a leadership team, learning how to essentially mobilize people for social change, and that was really exciting.”
Now Keith is applying those skills to bring a Project Pengyou chapter to LC. The chapter’s primary focus will be enhancing connections between American and Chinese students through various speakers, and dialogues with professors whose research focuses on China. Additionally, Keith plans to foster more collaboration between international Chinese students and introduce a career panel of alumni who have worked in China.
“We’re putting on what is called a Project Pengyou Day… The exciting thing about this event is that every chapter nationwide is holding [it] on the same day. It’s really about taking something and making it larger than a single school,” Keith said.
Keith urges students interested in studying China or Chinese culture to get involved with Project Pengyou.
“The more American students know about China now, the more likely we’re going to have policy-makers in the future who are going to understand Chinese language, culture and history and be able to implement policies” said Keith. “[These policies] are going to be mutually beneficial to both countries.”
The Lewis & Clark Project Pengyou Chapter will meet Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. in the Trail Room.