Campus News

UB students win Critical Language Scholarships


Published March 23, 2018

“UB students who attend CLS programs return with skills in languages that are critical not just to U.S. national security, but also scholarship in area studies.”
Walter Hakala, associate professor
Department of English and Asian Studies Program

Two UB undergraduates have received prestigious scholarships from the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program for the summer of 2018.

Portrait of Jenny Simon, junior English and linguistics major.

Jenny Simon

Jenny Simon, a junior majoring in English and linguistics from Brooklyn, and Ethan Wolfson-Seely, a senior English major, from Holliston, Massachusetts, were selected from a national pool of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of fields, backgrounds and career paths.

Both students are part of UB’s growing Asian languages programs. Simon has been studying Chinese at UB and Wolfson-Seeley has been studying Hindi.

Portrait of Ethan Wolfson-Seely, senior English major.

Ethan Wolfson-Seely

“With their outstanding undergraduate records, both Jenny and Ethan were able to make a strong case for how they have already applied their training in Asian languages to conduct innovative research with primary source materials in the target languages,” says Walter Hakala, associate professor in the Department of English and in the Asian Studies Program. “Speaking from personal experience, it is the faculty mentors who benefit the most from the expertise that their students acquire from intensive language training abroad.”

The CLS Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American college and university students. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains.

“UB students who attend CLS programs return with skills in languages that are critical not just to U.S. national security, but also scholarship in area studies,” says Hakala. “It’s a significant achievement for these students, but I’d also like to credit Megan Stewart, our new fellowships and scholarships adviser.”

Simon is strongly committed to the study of literature, linguistics and Asian culture, according to Hakala, who teaches courses in Asian literature, South Asian culture and Islam, and also served as a mentor to both of the scholarship recipients.

Hakala says that in the past academic year, Simon has developed as a scholar and researcher, gaining admission into UB’s Advanced Honors Program and presenting her research on the legacy of Confucian thought in contemporary Chinese education at the Pittsburgh Area Asian Studies Undergraduate Conference in April 2017.

She attended UB’s 2016 summer study abroad program in advanced beginning Chinese at Capital Normal University and will be studying Chinese at the advanced level at Changchun this June.

“I’m so happy to have made my professors proud and this experience will not only enhance my Mandarin, but will give me the confidence to aim for even bigger things,” says Simon. “My next goal is to get a Fulbright ETA, and the CLS experience will help me do just that.”

Wolfson-Seeley’s essay, “Sikhs, Students, and Subversives: Race, Exclusion, and the Birth of the Ghadar Party in America,” which has been accepted by Harf: A Journal of South Asian Studies, published by McGill University, examines the years that the Indian revolutionary and founder of the Ghadr (rebellion) Party, Har Dayal Singh, spent in the United States.

He’ll be attending the CLS program in Urdu (the national language of Pakistan) in the northern Indian city of Lucknow.

“This past summer, I recruited Ethan to assist me with a survey of epigraphy in the New Indo-Aryan languages,” says Hakala. “He took to this project with gusto, combing through obscure catalogues and 19th-century journals, and teaching himself about the history of late-medieval and early-modern South Asia.”

Wolfson-Seeley presented the initial findings of that collaboration in October 2017 at the Annual Conference on South Asia in Madison, Wisconsin.

He is writing a senior thesis with Hakala on the Indian mystics and magicians who attended the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago

“I’m excited to see a part of the world I’ve never visited,” says Wolfson-Seely. “I study a lot of South and Central Asian history, but I’ve never set foot anywhere on the continent of Asia — I’m also very much looking forward to the food.”