Wakefield woman wins award for language passion

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KINGSTON, R.I. — June 1, 2006 — When Katrina Josephson studied in Germany, she took a course in Swedish since she planned a side trip to that country. “Swedish is pretty easy, since it’s a lot like German,” says the recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island who earned a degree in both the French and German languages. She also took Spanish classes and studied in France.

Two days after she graduated, the linguist flew to Hangzhou, China, which is just south of Shanghai, where she is spending six weeks immersed in Mandarin Chinese.

Josephson is one of 14 URI students helping to lay the groundwork for a partnership between her alma mater and a university in China. The partnership will help establish a Chinese option in URI’s famed International Engineering Program. The 21-year-old woman is not an engineering student.

“I asked if I could go. It was such an opportunity,” says the Wakefield resident. “I couldn’t wait to learn some Chinese.”

That kind of demonstrated passion for languages earned Josephson the first Violet Grace Hellman Endowed Prize in Languages shortly before she graduated.

“My parents would have absolutely loved Katrina,” says Caroline Hellman of Cambridge, Mass. “She’s such a charming, lovely young woman and she’s has that passion for languages.”

Richard Hellman, emeritus professor of economics at URI, established the endowment at the University shortly before he died last year. He enjoyed a 34-year career as a research economist for the federal government with an expertise in energy policy, economics of nuclear power, and airline economics. He joined URI in 1970 as a professor of economics and the director of the Research Center in the College of Business Administration.

The professor named the endowment in tribute to his late wife, who was born in the Bronx, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. She was a stellar student at Hunter College in New York where she majored in French and minored in German. When her husband joined URI, she dove into Spanish courses and was inducted into the Spanish Honor Society.

In addition to daughter Caroline Hellman, other siblings who attended the award ceremony were son Peter Hellman, daughter Elizabeth Cooper and grandson Michael Cooper, all from New York.

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Caroline J.C. Hellman, daughter; Peter Hellman, son; URI student and scholarship recipient Katrina Josephson, Elizabeth Cooper, daughter, and Michael Cooper, grandson. URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.