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Confucius Institute Staff

Joan BrzezinskiJoan Brzezinski, Executive Director

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.

Madeline Christensen, Program and Project Specialist

Madeline earned her bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, where she majored in International Relations with a focus on the role of ideas and ideologies in international affairs. At Tufts, she also began studying Mandarin Chinese. Her first trip to China was a study abroad program in Yunnan province, with a focus on Chinese culture and ethnic minority issues. She returned to Yunnan to teach at a rural elementary school for two years through the Teach For China Fellowship. Afterwards, she spent a year education consulting in the city of Chengdu. Madeline also spent two summers working at a program for underprivileged youth in Hong Kong and has contributed to several international nonprofits, including working at a global health organization. She is fluent in French and proficient in Mandarin Chinese.

Jieying Zhang, Administrative Specialist

Jieying graduated from Capital Normal University in Beijing with a B.A. double major in English Language and Literature and Multimedia Technology, and later earned her master’s degree in Second Language Education focusing on International Education from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. While pursuing her master’s degree in Minnesota, Jieying gained hands-on experience in the field through her work at the Learning Abroad Center, Confucius Institute, and Chinese Language Flagship Program on the Twin Cities campus, as well as the Multi-Cultural Resource Center on the Morris campus. Before moving to Minnesota, Jieying worked for six years at Nestlé China’s Headquarters in Beijing doing office administration, budgeting, and trade marketing, where she developed channel marketing and branding strategies for whole milk powder in all regions of mainland China. Jieying hopes to promote understanding and communication between U.S. and China through her work at the Confucius Institute.

Qijie Li, Assistant Chinese DirectorDr. Qijie Li, Assistant Chinese Director

Qijie Li returned to serve at the Confucius Institute in May 2018 after working four years as an associate professor at the College of International Education at Capital Normal University in Beijing, China. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in Traditional Chinese Literature with a focus on the Yuan, Min,g and Qing Dynasties, both from Capital Normal University. She has extensive educational administration and teaching experience, including three years at CIUMN, 18 years teaching Chinese as a second language, and 14 years of teacher training. She is also a test paper reviewer of the International Chinese Language Teacher Qualification Examination and a test paper writer of the HSK Chinese proficiency tests. Her publications and research works focus on traditional Chinese literature and applied linguistics. During her tenure of nearly three years from 2011 to 2014, working as an assistant director at CIUMN, she facilitated the establishment of Confucius Institute satellite offices at the University of Minnesota Crookston and Morris campuses. She was also instrumental as the CIUMN transitioned to using the internet-based HSK and YCT tests, which helped CIUMN become the second-largest test center in North America.

Weijian Wang, Graduate Assistant

Weijian is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree in the Cultural and Teaching program at the Curriculum and Instruction Department at the College of Education and Human Development. Before becoming a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, he received is B.A. in Social Work in East China University of Science and Technology, and his M.A. in Foundation of Education from Beijing Normal University. He started his work
in Confucius Institute in September 2016. As a graduate assistant, he works with the Confucius Institute staff to provide Chinese language and cultural programs and community outreach activities for K-12 students and the general public. He also teaches summer camp classes to help students to develop deeper understanding of Chinese language and culture.