Ja’de Lin Till Wins CLS Scholarship in Mandarin

The senior history major will continue to study Mandarin Chinese through a Critical Language Scholarship.
Posted on March 17th, 2021 by

Ja’de Lin Till

Gustavus Adolphus College senior Ja’de Lin Till has been selected as a recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) in Mandarin Chinese. The program offers students an immersive study abroad experience to learn languages that are important for America’s engagement with the world.

The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Students of diverse disciplines and majors are encouraged to apply. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period, and later apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

Till is from Minneapolis, Minn. and will be graduating this spring with a major in history and minors in geography and statistics.

“I definitely didn’t come into school thinking I was going to be a history major. I took a class on a whim and fell in love with the debate, trains of scholarship, and rethinking of what ‘standard’ history was. I think it’s so interesting to look at events through history and see what themes and broader perspectives are at play and to see how that involves our thoughts and actions now,” Till said.

Till has been studying Mandarin since her first year of high school after spending two summers at Concordia Language Villages: Sēn Lín Hú. After that, she spent three years on staff of CLV, a summer language immersion program.

Till on a previous study away trip.

“The Critical Language Scholarship is interested in promoting language and cultural fluency among Americans, specifically in languages deemed critical to US interests. Mandarin is one of those languages. For many years, [Till] has been interested in gaining more fluency in Mandarin; moreover, she possesses a keen academic and personal interest in China,” said Pamela Kittelson, Gustavus biology professor and fellowships coordinator.

The CLS study away experience is another chance at international learning for Till, who was studying in Malaysia last spring before being sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we got sent home early I went from being able to have conversations in Mandarin every day to only during my class periods. I think it’s really important to me, both for my scholarly endeavors as well as my identity as a Chinese adoptee, to learn Mandarin. I think the dream of going back to China one day and being able to communicate fluently is really one of my big driving factors,” Till said.

After graduating, Till hopes to work in development and fundraising for a non-profit organization, but that is not her only goal.

“There’s a mini personal dream of being able to work at Concordia Language Villages doing fundraising for the organization. I think looking further into the future, however, I would love to go back to school at some point and educate myself more about international relations and also work as a foreign service officer,” Till said.

“[Till] won the scholarship because she made a series of excellent arguments. She demonstrated an abiding academic interest in Chinese and China; she made a compelling case for how she will continue to use Mandarin; she independently sought out opportunities to learn the language despite major hurdles; and she illustrated how she will be an excellent cultural ambassador for the U.S.—both this summer and in her career,” Kittelson said.

As for the scholarship, Till is excited to continue studying Mandarin and hopes she can continue to grow her skills in the future, for both her career and her personal identity.

“I’m very passionate about working for and with Asian American organizations and nonprofits and I would love to be able to use my language skills that way, facilitating discussion and conversation between cultures. I’d also love to go back to China to use my language skills there in my exploration of my adoptee identity and future scholarly work there,” Till said.

More information about how the Gustavus Fellowships Office supports students is available on the Gustavus website.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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