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Confucius Institute Staff

Joan BrzezinskiJoan Brzezinski, Executive Director China Center, Confucius Institute

Joan Brzezinski graduated from Hamline University with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian history and later finished a Master of International Management degree at the University of St. Thomas. While at Hamline University, she was selected to participate in the reciprocal exchange program at Peking University, the first undergraduate-level exchange program with a private university in the U.S.For more than twenty years, Joan worked in tourism and travel marketing and operations in China and the U.S and later as a business consultant to companies working in China. She has made more than thirty trips to China and has visited most major regions of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In 1997, she joined the China Center where she administered the China Center’s business and activities. In 2008, Joan became the acting director of the newly established Confucius Institute. Since then, she has assisted the State of Minnesota in their discussions with the Hanban regarding a state-level visiting teachers program, developed a number of professional development seminars and meetings for Chinese language teachers throughout Minnesota, and worked with school districts to bring quality Chinese language programming to schools and enhance Chinese cultural offerings throughout Minnesota.

YonglingYongling Zhang-Gorke, Assistant Director

Yongling graduated from the University of Minnesota with a doctorate in Comparative International Development Education. She received her B.A. in Chinese history from Fudan University and her M.Ed. from the University of Liverpool. She taught Chinese at the University of Tulsa and Tulsa’s StarTalk Chinese Immersion summer camp and has been actively involved in promoting Chinese learning with the Confucius Institute at the University of Oklahoma. An energetic and dedicated teacher, Yongling works with various audiences to develop global competency through the learning of language and culture. She looks forward to collaborating with both Chinese and American partner organizations to develop and sustain Chinese programs in Minnesota schools.

Emily HansonEmily Hanson, Program Director

Emily joined the Confucius Institute staff in 2008 and in 2012 her position grew to also include the China Center. She has a master’s degree in Comparative and International Development Education and bachelor’s degree in Global Studies, both from the University of Minnesota. Emily serves on the board of Yinghua Academy, which was the first Chinese immersion charter school in the United States. Emily began her study of Chinese language at Minneapolis South High School. During her junior year she participated in School Year Abroad, a semester-long high school program in Beijing. She continued her study of Chinese at the University of Minnesota and Lewis & Clark College. Emily has spent the majority of her career in the nonprofit sector, including positions with a Chinese adoption agency and educational organizations in literacy and the arts. As Community Programs Specialist, Emily manages many of the Confucius Institute’s events and activities at the University and in the community.

Emily RuskinPashoua Vang, Program and Project Specialist

Pashoua earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota where she majored in Global Studies and Asian Languages and Literature. Her passion for Chinese language learning began in middle school and continued throughout her high school and college years. She has studied in China through multiple programs, including the U.S. Department of State's National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program, as a participant of a Humphrey School of Public Affairs faculty-led program, and in Taiwan as a recipient of the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship. Pashoua was a scholar for the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership and interned at an international education nonprofit in DC. Her interests include international education and development, culture preservation, refugee and immigrant acculturation, and civic engagement. 

Rachel Baumhover, Executive Office and Administrative Assistant Rachel Baumhover, Executive Office and Administrative Assistant

Rachel joined the China Center and Confucius Institute after working as a student office assistant with the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance Dean's Office for two years. Rachel is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in both Journalism and Global Studies, with a focus on ESL Education. She has always been interested in working with the international community, and has formally studied Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. In Summer 2014, her passion for travel led to studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she studied Russian Language and Culture and worked as an English teacher. She has previously worked as an intern at the University of Minnesota's Learning Abroad Center, as well as in nonprofit settings. Rachel has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East -- with plans to have China as her next stop.

Jiaqi Xu, Graduate Assistant Jiaqi Xu, Graduate Assistant

Jiaqi Xu graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a bachelor of accounting degree and is currently enrolled in the master of accountancy program at Carlson School of Management. She started working for Confucius Institute in summer 2013 at the Duluth satellite office. Her experience working as a teaching assistant at 2013 and 2014 summer camps at Duluth local elementary school inspired students to explore Chinese language and culture learning through her creative cultural activities and Kongfu/Dancing classes. Now Jiaqi is a graduate assistant for CIUMNI, continuing to provide service for people who are passionate about Chinese language and culture learning. She believes that knowing another language and culture can help you better understand the whole world. Her interests include project development, culture learning, and events arrangement.

Yangyang Liu, Graduate AssistantYangyang Liu, Graduate Assistant

Yangyang Liu is a second year master student in the Second Language Education program at University of Minnesota and a teacher candidate of the Minnesota State K-12 Chinese language teaching license. She has two years of experience teaching Chinese in grades 4-12 at public schools and weekend schools in Minnesota. Yangyang joined Confucius Institute as a graduate assistant in September 2015. She also teaches Confucius Institute community classes where she utilizes her teaching pedagogics knowledge to design a variety of curriculum topics ranging from pop culture to understanding international students. Yangyang believes that language is the key to understanding culture and aims to facilitate a deeper knowledge of how traditional Chinese culture has impacted modern life.