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Making the world a little smaller
By Chris Barnett / July 18, 2014 /   Loading Disqus...

Natalie Tacy has been learning French since middle school, and now the University of Rhode Island senior is studying in France thanks to a fellowship from our Beatrice S. Demers Fund, created by a former URI professor who loved languages.

One of 18 college students to receive grants, Tacy will study in southern France, north of Paris and, finally, at a university in Rennes in the country’s Brittany region.

“I’m thrilled,’’ says the West Warwick resident, who is majoring in French and minoring in business. “It’s something I’ve been working toward for a long time. This is huge for me.’’

Demers spent her life teaching foreign languages, first to students in the Pawtucket schools and then to students at URI, where she taught for more than 30 years. She was fluent in French, German and Spanish and studied Chinese and Russian in her 70s.

After her death in 2007, she left us $4 million to fund fellowships for Rhode Island residents and anyone who is a student at a local college or university studying a foreign language. Fellowships cover the cost of tuition, fees, travel, housing and living expenses.

“The Demers fund is one of more than 150 scholarship funds that we manage and administer. Last year alone, we granted nearly $1.6 million in scholarship assistance,” says Neil Steinberg, our president and CEO.

This year’s recipients received $166,054 to study in France, Germany, Chile, China, Rwanda, Spain and Tajikistan. Brian Ramos, of North Providence, will spend a year at the International Space University in France and then travel to Rwanda for 11 weeks next summer, where he’ll learn the local language, Kinyarwanda. He’s pursuing his master’s degree in electrical engineering at URI, and he says knowing a foreign language is crucial in today’s global market.

“Africa has always been a place I wanted to go to,’’ he says. “As an engineer, I’d like to apply my skills to make the world a better place and help out others in a third world country.’’

Lucas Hanson is heading to the Technische Universitat Braunschweig in Germany for an academic year abroad. It will be his third trip to the country.

He started learning German in high school and continued at URI, where he is enrolled in the five-year international engineering program, or I.E.P., studying mechanical engineering and German. The program offers a dual degree in an engineering field and a language.

“German is a mathematical language,’’ he says. “It’s very straightforward. It’s a very proper language. It was easy for me to learn.’’

Applicants were judged for their dedication to studying foreign languages, the likelihood that the proposed study program will promote foreign language fluency and the diversity of languages studied and program types.

The other recipients are Norman R. Blanchard, Ian G. Calise, Arielle M. De Souza, Michael Ferrari, Alexander Giannakos, Amanda E. Junkins, Paul J. Kintz, Jillian Scott, Nelson A. Shepard, Spencer D. Soucy, Joseph P. Sullivan, and Elizabeth A. Wynn, all of URI; Zoe Downes and Katherine Long of Brown University and Maria Verdi of Warwick, who attends the University of North Carolina.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2013, the Foundation made grants of more than $31 million to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grant making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit www.rifoundation.org.








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