Academy of Chinese Studies Site Analysis
By Bryan Ueng
This semester, I am volunteering for service learning at the Academy of Chinese Studies in New Orleans. I come into the Academy’s rented classrooms in Newcomb Hall every Sunday in addition to working with my director throughout the week on other clerical work. Although I was principally hired to take care of recordkeeping and accounting, I also help out at the Academy for any odd jobs or English assistance needed. I hope this blog post will help everybody gain a better understanding of the Academy’s work in the Chinese-American community here in New Orleans.
ABOUT THE ACADEMY OF CHINESE STUDIES
The Academy of Chinese Studies (“the Academy”) was founded in 2003 to maintain and continue Chinese education for the children of Chinese immigrants in the metropolitan New Orleans area. While children of Chinese immigrants in larger urban areas such as New York, San Francisco and Houston are able to preserve their Chinese cultural roots due to the larger Chinese communities there, second-generation Chinese-Americans in New Orleans are more susceptible to cultural disengagement with their Chinese heritage. Thus the Academy was established with the goal of maintaining a strong Chinese tradition for these children to fill a vacuum for the lack of culture-identifying institutions in the New Orleans area.
Although originally established for Chinese immigrants and their children, the Academy has grown by leaps and bounds over the years to include many other functions in the Greater New Orleans area. Starting out with just 4 offered classes for children aged 6 – 18 in 2003, the Academy now offers more than 10 classes from its 1 – 5 pm window every Sunday at Newcomb Hall. In addition to Chinese language classes for Chinese-American students, it offers fun cultural classes such as calligraphy, Chinese yo yo, and traditional Chinese dance. An initiative also started to open classes for adult, non-native Chinese speakers as interest grew in the New Orleans community in the Chinese language. There are now two classes offered for non-native children and adults.
Pictured above is my direct supervisor, Lingyan Shu (second from right), with the Adult International Chinese class.
In addition to serving as an academic and cultural institution in an official capacity, the Academy has also inadvertently served as a social institution for the Chinese community. I learned this directly from my supervisor, who told me that the Chinese community in New Orleans has traditionally been very fragmented and dispersed throughout the city. Unlike Flushing, Queens in New York or Sharpstown in Houston, the Chinese community here is spread around the city wherever there is employment. Thus, the Academy has served as a meeting point for all the Chinese in families. Before the Academy, Chinese families had no way of congregating and sharing their cultural experiences and lean on each other for support. When I am doing my bookkeeping work in the administration room, I often see the parents of the Academy’s children bonding over life experiences.
FUNDING & ORGANIZATION
The Academy is a completely not-for-profit organization and all of its activities are supported by student tuition and outside grants. For one semester, tuition of $110 per child covers rent at Newcomb Hall and school supplies. The teachers are all volunteers and parents of children who attend but are extremely qualified. The Academy is also funded externally by the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in the Houston office. In terms of staffing and organizational personnel, all of the Academy’s teachers are hired on a volunteer basis, as previously mentioned. The principal is also voluntarily appointed and elected, with the current principal being Lingyan Shu.
MY WORK WITH THE ACADEMY
I was hired primarily to work with bookkeeping and accounting for student tuition records. During my first couple of weeks, it was extremely hectic as new students were registering to enroll and I had to organize the students’ information, payment methods, etc into a nice Excel spreadsheet. The records from last year were often outdated, so I also had to do some reformatting and tweaks on the spreadsheet from last year. After entering in all the data, I have been reconciling the payment to generate ledger reports to submit to the Academy registrar. In the end, we need to make sure that the money coming in matches the money deposited into the Academy’s account.
Pictured above is a sample spreadsheet I have been working with (blue box to remove student information for confidentiality purposes). I am able to apply my economics studies to my internship through the accounting-heavy and number crunching to tabulate the ledger reports to the registrar. In addition, I am learning intangible lessons in how to operate a successful nonprofit. I have taken public economics classes that study the use of public resources to establish institutions that maximize social benefit, and the Academy is a very good example of this economic theory. In addition to my work with the accounting and bookkeeping, I am also responsible for any other help that the Academy needs. This often includes escorting children to the bathroom, providing translation services, or helping with teachers in the classroom.
Pictured above is a picture I took with one of the international class children during a Chinese calligraphy class where I was helping out with supply distribution.