By Dr. Rachel Halverson, Department Chair Modern Languages and Cultures
First semesters are often magical times in life. The first semester of college, the first semester of graduate school, the first semester of a new position at a new university . . . All entail the dynamic intersection of meeting new people, getting one’s bearings in a new place, learning an incredible number of new things, and seeing the world from a new perspective. In the course of my life as a student and then as a faculty member, I have had a number of first semesters, and fall 2016 I had the opportunity to experience a first semester once again in my new position as chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Idaho. With these exciting recent weeks still fresh in my mind, I can attest to the joy that working with new colleagues and learning a multiplicity of new things brings to one’s professional and personal life. The University of Idaho Confucius Institute and its work to cultivate the study of Chinese and knowledge of Chinese culture on the Palouse have been a part of my first semester at the University of Idaho. Very quickly it has become a part my daily life here, and it has contributed to my positive impressions of the university and its commitment to providing its students with the broadest range of opportunities to become knowledgeable, multi-lingual global citizens. Each day I walk past the Confucius Institute on the way to my office, and every week I walk past the Kenworthy Theater in downtown Moscow and see announcements for upcoming Chinese films. A trip to Spokane in October included a spectacular nighttime walk through Riverfront Park illuminated by the amazing multi-colored displays that made up the Chinese Lantern Festival, a cultural event co-sponsored by the UI Confucius Institute. In 2017 I look forward to supporting the efforts of the Confucius Institute to cultivate student interest in studying Chinese and build a strong minor in the language.