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The Robert & MeiLi Hefner Foundation Announces the "Hefner Initiative – USA/ China/ Asia” 2017 Scholars and Ambassadors


March 1, 2017
By Lucy Carr

The Robert & MeiLi Hefner Foundation is pleased to announce that the 2017 Hefner Scholars are Chinwe Okere and Shania Do from the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics and Georgia Newman and Anthony Villalobos from The Webb Schools. The 2017 Hefner Ambassadors are Sara Marie Bodenstein, Mathematics Professor at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics and Neal Piper, Executive Director of the Presidential Precinct, a nonprofit organization in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The "Hefner Initiative - USA/ China/ Asia” 2017 program comprises an approximately 10-day cultural experience in Beijing and Suzhou, China. The trip will consist of six days spent in Beijing, during which the Hefner Scholars will stay with host families of students from Beijing High School No. 4, experiencing daily life in China firsthand. The group will explore the ancient city’s landmarks such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China, along with visiting the National Museum and enjoying a Peking Opera performance. The group will then take a bullet train to Suzhou, a small city known for its beautiful architecture and gardens, which will allow the Scholars and Ambassadors to learn about a different dimension of Chinese culture. After their return, the Scholars and Ambassadors will write a post-trip essay and give a presentation to their community, in order to spread the knowledge they have gained on the trip and promote the importance of peaceful and cooperative relations between the two countries.


Hefner Scholars from Beijing High School No. 4 Visit the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics


March 1, 2017
By Lucy Carr

Four students from Beijing High School No. 4 spent three weeks studying at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics as part of the 2017 “Hefner Initiative USA/ China/ Asia.” This year’s Hefner Scholars were Phyllis Liu, Jenny Ju, Carmelo Zhang, and Lewis Xin. They stayed in the dorms at OSSM, attended classes and participated in school activities, as well as enjoying special outings to learn about the history and culture of Oklahoma.

This year’s program included tours of the Oklahoma History Center, Norman North High School, Oklahoma City Community College’s Film & Video Department, the University of Oklahoma campus, the Sam Noble Museum, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. The Hefner Scholars also spent a weekend at the homes of their OSSM host buddies. Hefner Scholar Phyllis Liu wrote of her experience with OSSM students, “I was impressed by how enthusiastic and thoughtful they are when it comes to academics, and also overwhelmed by their kindness and warm relationships with each other … I have met so many great people and enriched my knowledge about the United States by talking and living with them.” Hefner Scholar Jenny Ju reflected on the trip, “I not only improved my academic knowledge but enriched my experience that could guide the rest of my life as well.”



Reflections from Participants in the "Hefner Initiative - USA/China/Asia" 2016 Summer Program


August 30, 2016
By Lucy Carr

Five American students and two teachers participated in this year’s program, spending twelve days in Beijing and Suzhou. The students were hosted by Beijing High School No. 4, and visited the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall of China, and the National Museum of China, among many other sites. The group then took a bullet train to Suzhou, where they visited the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the Suzhou Museum, and learned traditional Chinese calligraphy.

“Perhaps one of the most unforgettable portions of the trip was meeting Phyllis and her parents, my host family. Several days into our stay in Beijing, I remember calling home and telling my parents that Phyllis was the most like myself of anyone that I have ever met. Who would have thought that such a well-matched friend existed half way across the world?”
-Eileen Egolf, Hefner Scholar- Creede

“Staying with my host family showed me that although there are big differences between U.S. and Chinese culture, we aren’t all that different. That these people went out of their way to accommodate me, for nothing in return, has really stuck with me. Their kindness, generosity, and hospitality was the highlight of my trip.”
-Kaitlin Hawkes, Hefner Scholar- Webb

“This trip gave me a genuine understanding of a culture I assumed I knew everything about. Every day led to new discoveries; expectations were met or corrected, insight about our respective cultures was shared between me and the local students, the beauty of the Chinese monuments inspired awe, reminding me the limits of what pictures can convey.”
-Raphael Huang, Hefner Scholar- Webb

“I kept arriving at one simple realization: China deems its cultural heritage as an asset, something to be inherently proud of, and something to not be shed. While America innovates as a startling pace, shifting from cultural importance to unthinkable technology. Regardless of these different ideologies, their partnership is essential to the world on not only an economic level, but something of a cultural one as well. A great of number of things can be learned from China.”
-Ritvik Ganguly, Hefner Scholar- OSSM

“I gained newfound wisdom on China’s connection to the west and finally verified my beliefs about modern Chinese culture myself. On top of that, I had seen some of the greatest sites to ever be created by man himself, made new friends, and got to live adventurously for over ten days.”
-Zach Arani, Hefner Scholar- OSSM

“A real connection with another culture begins from visiting, engaging, looking closely and open mindedly at their way of life. I am so fortunate and grateful to have had the experience to spend time interacting with some of the people and history of China. It has changed the way I will always think of China. It is one of my favorite places I have visited, a place I want to learn much more about, and one that I want to revisit throughout my life. It has also changed the way I will discuss and promote China in the U.S.—as a place of incredible history, hardworking and peaceful people, and forward-thinking in our modern world.”
-Blair Amberly, Hefner Ambassador- Free Union Country School

“Through the Hefner Initiatives, the students realize how big the world truly is. They gain a greater understanding of other cultures, and witness new perspectives outside the United States. Seeing the emotional and intellectual development of our students is one of the great joys in participating in this program. They take plenty home with them, but – whether they realize it or not – also leave something with their new friends in Beijing. “
-Mark Li, Hefner Ambassador-OSSM



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