Zhen Zou to Retire this January
After 22 years of service to students, Dr. Zhen Zou has decided to retire at the end of the semester. The faculty, staff and students of the departments of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) and the Language Center (LC) will miss a committed and tireless educator, an innovative and collaborative colleague, and one of the friendliest faces on campus.
Zhen was the first, and so far only, joint hire between the two units. Although his workload was diverse and often changed, his passions were teaching Chinese and advising students. He was as comfortable teaching an upper-level class for advanced students as he was leading a first lesson for high school students. An enthusiastic model teacher throughout the life of the LC World Languages Day events, his lesson introducing the Chinese language was consistently reviewed as the highlight of the day for those students who had the opportunity to experience it. When he said “Chinese is easy,” it was always with confidence, and he did make it seem easy. He was also a terrific advisor for current and potential students, as well as an ambassador for the Chinese language program. He was always first in line to volunteer to represent the college at official events, and would also welcome families who were touring campus, and stopped by unannounced. Families who were considering the University of Minnesota for their students always seemed more comfortable and confident after talking with Zhen.
As technology liaison between the Language Center and the AMES department, Zhen provided much appreciated support to the instructional staff. His dedication to the Chinese program, in particular, is evident in the painstaking process of arranging and making available audio material to accompany the elementary and intermediate classes. In this process, as in his other contributions, he has been driven by the idea of student-centered learning. His primary motivation has been, in his own words, “Students really like it.”
One of Zhen’s greatest accomplishments was in developing, promoting and directing the Culture and Language Integration in Chinese and English (CLIC) program, beginning in 2017. This innovative project expanded on the TandemPlus program and provided focused conversation and cultural exchange opportunities for two populations: Twin Cities American high school students who had previously attended Chinese immersion schools and UM international students from China. Zhen prepared and led guided weekly conversation sessions, allowing both populations to interact with each other, using both languages and sharing insights about culturally relevant topics. The program also promoted the Chinese Flagship program to high school students who had the potential to be successful at the University of Minnesota.
Zhen approached every new project with enthusiasm, goodwill and kindness. His warm and friendly presence will be missed by colleagues, students and families.