Five WKU Students Recognized in Critical Language Scholarship competition
- Tuesday, April 21st, 2020
This spring, graduating senior Mac Williams was awarded a US Department of State Critical Language Scholarship to study Japanese language intensively in Okayama, Japan. When he heard the news, Williams said, “I could only think of Japanese scholar Yashiro Yukio’s words: ‘The time of the snows, of the moon, of the blossoms--then more than ever we think of our comrades,’” In this time of blossoms, Williams has felt gratitude for everyone who supported him through the process of application, particularly his “professor, mentor, and friend” Joseph Ertl in the Department of Modern Languages.
The Critical Language Scholarship Program, like all other summer study abroad programs, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But Williams remains committed to advancing his Japanese language and cultural proficiency.
Williams, the son of Ronda and Dan Nelson of Radcliff, is an English major. His goal is to study and teach early twentieth century Japanese literature. “We, as a world-wide community, should look to the hardships and challenges faced during the Meiji era, learn from the successes and mistakes of that newly opened, rapidly industrializing country and apply them to modern challenges: the similar modernization of China, the dangers of nationalism,” he says. “And there are few better ways to learn about the heart of a society than through the novels and essays written by its people.”
Four additional WKU students were designated as alternates for Critical Language Scholarships. Autumn Eichhorn (Chinese) is the daughter of Melissa Drury, the granddaughter of Patsy Bain of Lawrenceburg, and majors in Chinese and Asian Religions and Cultures. Lily Hamm (Chinese) is the daughter of Tina Benge-Hamm and Mark Hamm of Somerset and majors in Chinese and Geology. Ryan Richardson (Chinese) of Williamsburg is the son of Sheri and Alan Richardson and majors in Political Science, Chinese, and Asian Religions and Cultures. Jessica Williams (Chinese) of Florence is the daughter of Allison and Scott Williams and majors in Biology and Chinese. Eichhorn, Hamm, and Richardson are members of the Department of Defense-funded Chinese Flagship Program at WKU.
Although summer program options have disappeared for students in 2020, they continue to work toward their goals. “I want to find a way to use my passion for understanding religion and philosophy to work abroad, potentially as an ambassador,” says Eichhorn. Hamm hopes “to make a positive impact on communities that have been disproportionately affected by geopolitical issues.” Richardson will finish out his Mandarin studies with a Boren Scholarship-funded year in Taiwan before pursuing a law degree and working in a federal agency on issues related to national security and East Asia. Williams continues to work toward plans to collaborate with international researchers on climate science and climate change policy.
The Critical Language Scholarship Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. Students spend eight to ten weeks abroad studying one of 15 critical languages. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains.