URI students win grants to study foreign languages overseas

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2018 Demers recipients
Some of the 2018 Demers recipients are, from left front, Salita Daraphet; Elliot Anderson; Nina Gardner; and Sandra Deeb. From rear left, James Gannon; Emily Hadfield; Mark Keenan; Cynthia Malambi; Kevin Speckmann; and Julian Andriulli. Photo by Michael Salerno.

KINGSTON, R.I., May 2, 2018—Elliot Anderson was worried that he might have to take out a loan to pay for his study abroad in France next year, but now he can rest easy.

The University of Rhode Island engineering student can thank Beatrice S. Demers, a former URI professor passionate about languages and travel, for making his trip possible.

Anderson is one of 18 URI students who received grants from the Beatrice S. Demers Foreign Language Fellows fund to study overseas.

Demers spent her life teaching foreign languages, first to students in the Pawtucket schools and then to students at URI, where she taught for more than 30 years.

After her death, she left $4 million to the Rhode Island Foundation to establish and administer the fund. The fellowships to study in Jordan, China, France, Germany, Spain, Japan and Chile cover the costs of tuition, housing and travel.

This year’s recipients reflect the vibrancy of the language program at URI.

Fifteen of the students have foreign language majors along with a second major; one is studying Japanese; and another recipient is minoring in Arabic. A final student, who is a veteran and law enforcement officer, is pursuing the study of Arabic as a non-matriculating student.

All but two students also have membership in special academic programs: International Engineering Program; International Business Program; Honors Program; Talent Development; and the Chinese Language Flagship Program.

Collectively, the students will receive $233,900, the largest amount in the history of the program. Since its inception in 2011, the Demers Fellowship has provided $1.5 million to URI students in support of their foreign language immersion.

Anderson, of Providence, says he is grateful for the award. He is enrolled in URI’s five-year International Engineering Program, majoring in civil engineering and French.

“I was in disbelief,” says Anderson. “I’ve never felt so supported academically. I’ve never felt more personally touched. It’s incredible.”

He’ll depart July 26 for Compiègne, France to study at the Université de Technologie de Compiègne, where he’ll take courses in engineering, computer design, construction management, political economics and theater. He’ll intern at a French engineering firm his second semester.

Cynthia Malambi is also studying in France, but her destination is the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Rennes, also known as Sciences Po Rennes. She’ll take courses in political science and French—and possibly Chinese.

Malambi is a triple major at URI—political science, French and Chinese. She is enrolled in the URI Honors Program and Talent Development, a highly regarded URI program that serves Rhode Island high school graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“I am beyond grateful for the Demers,” says Malambi, of Providence. “I’m only 20 years old, and being able to travel the world, it’s literally mind-blowing.”

After graduation, she hopes to attend law school or get her master’s degree in public health.

Julian Andriulli, also in the International Engineering Program, will attend Okayama University in Japan for a year. He’ll study the Japanese language his entire year abroad and conduct research with a Japanese engineering professor.

“I’m extremely happy and excited,” says Andriulli of Barrington. “I’ll be able to study the language intensively. I’m aiming to be a liaison in a Japanese subsidiary manufacturing company.”

The Demers, he says, will help him achieve that dream.

Nina Gardner says she wouldn’t have been able to study abroad without the Demers grant. Gardner is another International Engineering Program student, with a focus on Spanish and civil engineering. She will study at the Universidad de Cantabria in Santander, Spain.

“I was speechless when I got the award,” says Gardner, a native of Taiwan who has lived in South Kingstown for seven years. “I almost cried. I was so thankful to the Rhode Island Foundation and the Demers donors. Without the Demers, I don’t think I’d be able to go.”

The students were judged on their dedication to foreign language study; the likelihood that the program will promote language fluency; and the variety of languages and programs.

The Demers is open to all Rhode Island residents, not just students. Non-resident students who attend a Rhode Island college or university are also eligible. Preference is given to URI applicants.

The other Demers recipients are: Paul Kelley (Arabic); Sophia Lavoie of Wakefield (Arabic); Kevin Speckman of Warrenton, Va., (Chinese); Sandra Deeb of South Kingstown (French); Elliot Engleman (French); Kimi Harrington of Hookset, N.H. (French); Mark Keenan of North Smithfield (German); Maeve Story of Southport, Conn. (German); Kelly Domogala of Southbury, Conn. (Spanish); James Gannon of Coventry (Spanish); Justin Hayes of South Kingstown (Spanish); Robyn Johnson of Elsah, Ill. (Spanish); Emily Hadfield of Pipersville, Pa. (Chinese); and Salita Daraphet of Northridge, Mass. (Chinese).