University of Tennessee at Chattanooga rising junior Emma Roy has a career goal.
“This is going to sound crazy, but I’ve always wanted to be a senator,” said Roy, a Brock Scholar in the Honors College majoring in secondary education: political science. “I have always wanted to get involved in politics, and I feel that being accepted into this program is going to be a catalyst for that.”
Roy has been selected for the 2023 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Chinese Program, an immersive summer opportunity for U.S. college and university students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world.
An initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, students accepted into the CLS Program spend eight to 10 weeks abroad studying one of 14 critical languages, with intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains.
According to its website, the scholarship program is part of a broader U.S. government effort to significantly boost the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages crucial to national security and economic prosperity. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students nationwide applied for the scholarship this year, with approximately 500 students from 245 institutions selected as finalists.
Roy, a native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is slated to study Chinese at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan, from June 20 through Aug. 16.
“The CLS Program is an intensive overseas immersion program, so it is the perfect opportunity to learn Chinese again—or refresh everything that I’ve learned through middle school and high school,” said Roy, a 2021 graduate of The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
“I am hoping I’ll just better my understanding of the language through this program. I want to bring back whatever I learn overseas—the language, the culture, the life lessons that I’m going to learn over there. I want to bring that back here.”
Roy said she has been studying the Chinese language since she was in second grade—and has previously traveled to China twice.
Her stepfather, Dr. Michael Novak, was the director of the Confucius Institute at Middle Tennessee State University from 2014 until 2021 when that program was discontinued. Her stepdad and her mom, Jessica, are educators in the Rutherford (Tennessee) County Schools system.
Roy doesn’t envision following in their teaching footsteps, as her plan after graduating from UTC is to attend law school.
“I’m not sure exactly what law school or where or necessarily what type of law I want to study,” she said, “but I feel that with the Critical Language Scholarship Program, I’m going to be able to meet a lot of people. If I have knowledge of Chinese in addition to my law degree, I will have a better advantage in getting involved in politics.
“That’s why I’ve been learning Chinese since second grade. My parents made me learn it because they understood the importance of the tension between the U.S. and China and how it’s increased since the ’70s.”
During her time at UTC, Roy has been a research assistant for Dr. Saeid Golkar in the Department of Political Science and Public Service and for the Institutional Review Board. She has also worked part-time as a childcare assistant for Hamilton County Schools, which she planned to continue this summer until learning of her acceptance into the CLS program.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I feel like this is the beginning of my future.”
Roy is the second UTC student selected for the award, joining Hannah Horton, who spent the summer of 2019 studying in Busan, South Korea.