Mount Union Launches Discover China Program

April 01, 2011

The University of Mount Union recently announced that it will launch “The Discover China Program,” a multi-faceted Chinese cultural program in the fall of 2012, funded by Jim and Pam Griffith. Jim is a member of the Mount Union Board of Trustees and serves as president and chief executive officer of The Timken Company.
Students enrolled in the program will study Mandarin Chinese culture and language as well as live with a native Chinese language speaker in a Chinese theme house on Mount Union’s campus. Having this daily interaction with a native language speaker will allow students to speak the language and learn about the Chinese culture first hand. At the end of the students’ first year (two semesters) in the program, they will travel to China in the summer to study and participate in a service-learning project at an orphanage near and dear to the Griffiths’ hearts.
Discover China is a three-semester program, which will allow for students to learn about Chinese culture and language as well as major in any of the 55 broad-based majors that Mount Union offers. It complements nearly all majors and minors offered at Mount Union, but is especially well suited for students interested in majoring in international studies, Asian studies and international business and economics.
“It is apparent that we are truly living in a global society, and that is why it is important for students to expose themselves to other languages and cultures,” said Dr. Richard F. Giese, president of Mount Union. “This program will truly open doors for our students and allow them to discover this fascinating and significant country. We (Mount Union) are very appreciative of Jim and Pam’s generosity, as well as their evident passion for embracing diversity.
Jim is no rookie when it comes to Chinese language and culture, as he has made more than 30 visits to China since 1996 when he was assigned to open the Chinese market for Timken. At that time, there were 15,000 employees working for Timken and zero were employed in China. Today, Timken employs more than 20,000 employees around the world, with 4,000 working in China to serve the Asian markets.
According to Jim, in a current Mount Union student’s lifetime, China will be the most important economic partner for the United States. It is vital for people to have the ability to understand and appreciate the opportunity at hand to create interrelationships with China.
“A fifth of the world’s people are ethnically Chinese,” said Jim. “So, when you think of it from that perspective and understand that China is the fastest growing economy in the world, it becomes crystal clear why people who understand the Chinese language and culture will have a leg up on those who don’t.”
Discover China seeks to accomplish much more than preparing American students for working in a global society. One of the objectives is to attract Chinese students to come and study at Mount Union, and therefore create a cultural interchange. Jim noted that when individuals interact with others from different cultures, they sometimes see things that they view as illogical. But, it’s important to recognize that people from other cultures have varying perspectives on the world and react to specific events, ideas and topics differently. 
“You will never be able to understand why the person across the table reacted to a phrase in the manner he or she did unless you take the time to get to know the individual and understand his or her culture, values and language,” he said.
It is the Griffiths’ hope that this program will not only help prepare students for their first job in our global society, but also arm them with the skills and knowledge to help build bridges and relationships with people all around the world. And, for students to not just accept diversity, but to whole-heartedly embrace it.
“We wanted to essentially ‘pay it forward,’ so that generations of Mount Union students will continue to make a difference both in the United States and abroad,” said Jim.
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