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日本へ行く

  • Nylah McClain is the first UMES student to win a Boren Fellowship

    Monday, May 3, 2021
    Nylah McClain

    Nylah McClain was captivated as a child by Japanese comic books and graphic novels -- manga -- as well as anime, the term used to describe a unique style of animation. 

    McClain had no way of knowing at age seven it would lead 16 years later to a year of study in the Land of the Rising Sun. 

    The Fort Washington, Md. native is among 124 American college students awarded a Boren Fellowship for the 2021-22 academic year, and a first for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.  The fellowship carries a $25,000 stipend to spend a year in “language immersion.” 

    McClain earned a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in environmental science in May 2020 and was a member of the Richard A. Henson Honors Program. 

    “For Nylah to be the first UMES recipient of a Boren Fellowship is truly transformative, for her and for our school,” Dr. Michael Lane, the honors program director, wrote in an April 16 memo announcing the honor.  

    McClain “is proof positive that UMES students can compete for - and win - nationally prestigious awards of this caliber,” Lane said, “and … has cleared the skies for future Hawks to soar toward their own goals around the world.” 

    The fellowship is named for a former U.S. senator from Oklahoma, the principal author of legislation that created the National Security Education Program, which focuses on building "a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills."

    The graduate of Oxon Hill High School, a science and technology magnet school in Prince George's County, gravitated to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore because it was a historically black institution in a bucolic setting and offered a career path to become an environmental scientist.  As a secondary school student, McClain studied Italian. 

    UMES, it turns out, offers academic course credit in Japanese through its Foreign Language Instruction Center.  McClain seized the opportunity and spent two semesters as a senior under the tutelage of center director Phillip Broussard. 

    Nylah-san (the name I use to call her in Japanese class) is an extremely determined, diligent and motivated student,” Broussard said.  “These are all of the traits needed to learn and master a new language, particularly a difficult language like Japanese.” 

    McClain, he added, “always works hard, completes work on time and asks questions.” 

    In a mandatory essay required by the Boren Fellowship application, McClain wrote, “How languages change and develop has always been of interest to me.  This desire to understand others and how they communicate will aid in how I prepare to approach others overseas.  I want to be viewed as confident, but polite.” 

    “While I'm sure I can get the polite part down, I am quite introverted and approaching others can be difficult for me,” McClain's essay said.  “Because Japanese culture is quite polite, being immersed by the culture will make me more comfortable.” 

    The 23-year-old currently is a first-year student in UMES' marine-estuarine-environmental sciences graduate program. 

    “One of my career goals is to educate the public on how marine ecosystems interact with and are impacted by humans and how humans are affected in turn,” McClain's Boren application essay says. 

    McClain received the Boren Fellowship award news electronically in mid-April and immediately called family members. 

    “My girlfriend was with me,” McClain said.  “I had to read it aloud to make it real.” 

    “Everyone is very proud of me,” McClain said.  “I've always talked to them about going to Japan, but it always seemed out of reach” financially. 

    In return for the year-long fellowship, McClain committed to pursuing work with the federal government where language skills can be put to practical use. 

    “I would like to work for the Department of State's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. Due to the international effect, the need for public understanding increases,” McClain's essay reads. 

    Meanwhile, Broussard continues to tutor McClain about two hours a week. 

    “As her Japanese instructor (先生) I am very proud of this amazing accomplishment,” Broussard said. “Living and studying Japanese in Japan will accelerate her journey to language proficiency.  This award will surely set Nylah-san apart, and create unique opportunities for her in the future.”


    Acknowledgements:

    • The example of the anime character was crafted by 2019 UMES alumna Martha Opiyo and shared for inclusion in this article by faculty member Brad Hudson.
    • Phillip Broussard assisted with the Japanese character translation used in the headline; Destination Japan.