JCI Celebrates Lunar New Year

By:    Brandon Pytel
Date: February 21, 2018

The UC Joint Co-op Institute hosted a Lunar New Year celebration for its inaugural class.

CQU students pose around Lunar New Year decorations.

CQU students celebrate their first Lunar New Year at UC.

You might not be able to tell by living in Cincinnati, but Lunar New Year is one of the biggest events in Asia. February 16 marked the turn of the lunisolar year on the lunar calendar and, much like New Year’s here in the States, it is a cause for celebration. In fact, this holiday is so engraved in Chinese culture that many businesses close their doors for a whole month—two weeks leading up to the New Year and the two weeks following it.  

The University of Cincinnati (UC) has more Chinese students than previous years thanks to the partnership between UC and Chongqing University (CQU) in China. The partnership, labeled the Joint Co-op Institute (JCI), started in 2013 and allows CQU students to study in China for the first four years of their engineering degree before spending their final year (this year) taking classes at UC. When students graduate this April, they will receive two degrees: one from UC and one from CQU.

When Lunar New Year rolled around this February, these 56 Chinese students found themselves thousands of miles from home, spending the holiday in another country. To help bring a piece of their culture to UC, the JCI office at UC hosted its first Lunar New Year celebration for these students.

“Lunar New Year is an important celebration for them,” said Carla Purdy, PhD, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science. “Since they’re not with family, we wanted to make them feel at home.” 

In addition to CQU students attending the event, which took place Friday afternoon, faculty, staff and engineering diplomats—current UC students who help CQU students adjust to the campus and American life—also took part in the festivities. 

The event opened with a welcome by Paul Orkwis, PhD, interim dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), and Tom Huston, PhD, co-director of JCI.

“You all are pioneers,” Orkwis said, speaking to the several dozen CQU students in attendance. “You have pushed forward through this program, done well and have been part of something truly unique.”

CQU student talking.

One CQU student shares his Lunar New Year traditions.

The Lunar New Year is celebrated by many cultures, each with their own traditions. As the event continued, different CQU students shared their own traditions for the Lunar New Year, telling stories that ranged from exchanging gifts to eating dumplings to lighting firecrackers. It was a way for these students to both feel at home and share their culture with the UC family.

Speaking after the event, Dean Orkwis talked about the overarching importance of the partnership between CQU and UC.

“The JCI program lets these students understand how two cultures think differently and how they can bridge these gaps to do business,” he said. “This program helps create ties and ensure success for the universities and the students taking part in it.”

As the event wound down, many students chatted with each other and their professors. A raffle was held and people won prizes. Zoey Mao, a JCI co-op adviser who came from China with the inaugural class this year, reflected on the event.

“Lunar New Year is a really big event for these students,” she said. “I’m so happy UC decided to put this on—it means a lot to them.”

The Year of the Dog will be a big year for the university and these students. JCI’s inaugural class will graduate, having taken classes in two different countries. Some students will go back to China; others will stay here in Cincinnati. One thing is certain: They will all use what they have learned through this program to drive the next generation of global engineers.