Following a 50 percent increase this year in the number of applications to the Richard Light Fellowship, which provides grants for language study in East Asia, the Light Trustees have announced that the number of spaces in this summer’s program will be increased one a one-time basis.
The Office of International Education and Fellowship programs received 156 applications to the Light fellowship this year, compared to last year’s 109. While the number of students typically accepted to the program — between 90 and 95 — will not change permanently, IEFP officials said, the Light Trustees decided to fund this year’s 23-slot wait list, bringing the total number of spaces for the 2006 summer session to 115.
IEFP Director Barbara Rowe said the additional funding was made possible by funding left over from the program’s earlier years, when fewer students applied for the fellowship.
“Yale College has held up the Light Fellowship Program as a model for other gifts to the University,” she said. “One of the features of the Light Fellowship Program that makes it such a good model is the allocation of funds for faculty, including language lectors, to visit the programs in East Asia to conduct academic assessments. Through these visits, we are able to ensure that the approved programs are of the highest academic quality and that they articulate well with our on-campus language curricula.”
Mimi Yiengpruksawan, chair of the Light Fellowship Executive Committee, said she thinks the increase in the number of student applicants this year may be a response to the University’s continued push to make Yale more globally conscious.
“President Richard Levin’s vision in promoting internationalization at Yale has encouraged many students to think globally and to seek exposure to languages and cultures in the East Asian region,” she said.
Charles Laughlin, a professor in East Asian Languages and Literatures and former director of the Light Fellowship program, said he believes the Fellowship is one of Yale’s most attractive features.
“It has driven rapid improvement and innovation in our own language programs that will continue, and it has made Yale more attractive than peer institutions for prospective students interested in East Asia,” he said.
Laughlin said if the program continues to attract a high number of applicants, the fellowship will become more competitive. He said he hopes Light alumni stay involved in the program.
“The sizable and growing community of past Light Fellows needs to be more actively involved in the program as resources on campus and in the field,” he said.
Though the fellowship allows winners to enhance their language skills, students and administrators said finding appropriate language courses when students return to campus can prove challenging. A new Web tool called “E-Assisting Planning” was specifically created to assist Light Fellows who struggle to find sufficiently challenging language classes upon their return to Yale. Laughlin said more advanced courses are in the works, including a potential new, standardized fourth-year Chinese language class.
Nancy Ruther, the associate director of Yale Center for International and Area Studies, said different kinds of classes may be beneficial to these advanced students.
“They are creating more specialized classes in which students can have discussion sections in Japanese or Chinese,” she said. “Yale is responding with incredible speed.”
Ryan Levine ’06, the only Yale student to have used the Light Fellowship to travel to both China and Japan, said the program improved and centered his Yale experience, though he would like to see more challenging language classes offered at Yale.
“The department is doing a good job to provide options,” he said. “I would like to see more funding and more classes. It would be great to have more commercially-oriented classes in addition to all of the liberal arts options.”