Alumnae Pursue Graduate Work in Asian Studies – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Alumnae Pursue Graduate Work in Asian Studies

Fascinated with Asian studies as William Smith students, Melissa Hosek ’14 and Chelsea Hudson ’12 have continued to fuel their passion through post-graduate studies at two prestigious institutions. This fall, Hosek entered the East Asian Languages and Cultures Ph.D. program at Stanford University, while Hudson began a doctoral program in the history department at  Georgetown University.

At Stanford, Hosek’s research focuses on modern Chinese literature, however she says she’s looking forward to exploring the interdisciplinary approach offered through the program. “I want my research to include how this subject intersects with other fields such as philosophy, history and memory, and political science,” she explains. Eventually, Hosek says she hopes to pursue a career in academia, a choice that was heavily influenced by her time spent teaching English in Taichung, Taiwan, as a recipient of the 2014-2015 Fulbright U.S. Student Award English Teaching Assistantship.

“Through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant, I received training in foreign language education, I traveled around East Asia, made friends across Taiwan, and taught English to more than 1,000 elementary school children,” she explains. “It was an amazing experience that has impacted me in countless ways. I realized that I want my future research to focus on culture and I confirmed my passion for education.” 

Hudson earned her M.A. from the East Asian Languages and Cultures Program at Columbia University in May, and has since transitioned to the doctoral program at Georgetown where she is focusing her research on the indigenous people of northern Japan, called the Ainu. Hudson explains that she is studying the contemporary history and role of the Ainu during the Russian and Japanese expansion in the North Pacific. A Russian area studies and Sino-Japanese studies double major at HWS, Hudson also studied Russian language and culture extensively at the Colleges and through subsequent study abroad opportunities.

“What’s really fascinating about conducting indigenous research is how many indigenous historians are beginning to emerge in the field,” says Hudson. “I hope to connect with the Ainu scholars and activists in Hokkaido, and also to go abroad to assist them with their research. I think it’s really their voices that need to be heard most of all.”

As students at the Colleges and in the years immediately following graduation, Hosek and Hudson traveled the globe to pursue their academic endeavors and foster their love of foreign language and culture. Both were the recipients of the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship. The scholarship took Hudson to Vladmir, Russia to study Russian through the Intensive Summer Institutes program, while Hosek participated in an intensive language program in Hangzhou, China.

Before traveling to their respective destinations, both participated in fully-immersive language programs at Middlebury College where Hosek attended the College’s Chinese School and Hudson the Russian program. Hosek also studied in Beijing, which she says was influential in expanding her academic interests to Chinese culture and literature.

While at Columbia, Hudson traveled to Hokkaido, Japan, as part of the Hokkaido International Foundation Program. The opportunity to immerse herself in the local culture and make connections with local people on a daily basis “put more of a human aspect” into her research: “You can’t appreciate a place you’re researching until you’ve been there,” she says.

Hudson and Hosek both say their coursework at HWS played a crucial role in their decision to pursue Asian studies at the graduate level. Hosek was initially drawn to Asian studies during her first-year while taking “Chinese 101” which introduced her to the “excitement and questions surrounding China’s development.”

Hudson spent her first years at HWS focused on Russian language and culture before developing an interest in the Japanese language and culture through a Japanese language course. Connecting her two interests with the help of Associate Professor of History Lisa Yoshikawa, Hudson created an individual major – Sino-Japanese Studies – which she paired with her Russian area studies major.

“Professor Yoshikawa was foundational in making me want to pursue historical work, and in preparing me for the rigors of studying history at the graduate level,” says Hudson. She also credits Associate Professor of Russian Studies Kristen Welsh and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Carol Oberbrunner for having a transformative impact on her graduate level pursuits.

“Professor Oberbrunner’s kindness and passion put me on a path of wanting to try and make a positive difference through my career and to devote my historical research to concrete, compassionate work. She helped me become a more conscientious and empathetic person,” says Hudson.

Above (from top to bottom), Melissa Hosek ’14 poses in front of Fo Guan Shan Monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Chelsea Hudson ’12 captures the view from the top of Iozan, a hill in the town of Kaminokuni in southern Hokkaido. A view of the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius in Vladimir, Russia, a UNESCO World Heritage site built in the 12th century.