Although University of Rhode Island student Kaylen Duarte of Warwick never met the famous inventor, she did have a light bulb go off in her head after taking classes in journalism and Mandarin Chinese.
Languages are a big part of students’ lives at URI with more than 2,500 students taking a language course each semester or about 20 percent of the University’s undergraduate population.
Duarte knew that the University community could benefit from a multi-lingual student-run newsletter. “We live in a multicultural world, but tend to overlook it. A newsletter could advocate campus diversity by celebrating language while providing language students with an opportunity to write in two languages,” she says.
Duarte applied for and received a $650 Undergraduate Research Initiative grant, co-sponsored by URI’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and the Office of the Provost. The grants award scholarly, creative, and artistic projects.
The journalism major who just completed her sophomore year used the grant to purchase computer-publishing equipment, advertise for student writers, and make copies.
The first issue of The Ambassador appeared this month. Ten students authored nearly a dozen 200 to 300-word articles in Chinese or Spanish and translated them into English. Topics ranged from “Suggestions for Learning Chinese” to “The Veteran Student Association” to “Luces de bohemia,” a provocative Spanish play by Ramón del Valle-Inclan. Colorful photos were interspersed. A quote by Mark Twain is prominently placed in the newsletter: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness.
Duarte edited the newsletter and credits Wen Xiong, assistant professor of Chinese and Rosario Auer, a native Spanish speaker, with editing it pro bono.
“I want to have at least two editions and more of a mix of languages next (academic) year,” she says, mentioning German and French as possibilities.
The young editor leaves for China next month for nine weeks. This will be her second trip as part of URI’s Chinese Flagship Program. Last summer she spent a month there with group a of other students.
The day before her departure to China on June 6, the URI student will sing a song in Chinese at the retirement party of John Grandin, a professor of German who founded URI’s International Engineering Program. (URI educates more bilingual and cross-culturally competent engineers than any other university in the country.)
“I love languages,” Duarte says. “I took French in high school. I could have signed up for Spanish classes at URI because while the languages are different, there are also similarities. But I wanted to challenge myself by signing up for Mandarin, which has no comparison to the romance languages.”
Although she still has two more years before she graduates, Duarte is considering future careers. One career has enticed her- interpreter.
URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.