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Hutton Honors College

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HHC Junior Nathaniel Sims Receives 2013 Beinecke Scholarship

April 24, 2013

Indiana University Bloomington junior Nathaniel Sims is a 2013 Beinecke Scholar, one of only 20 students nationwide to receive the honor.

Nathaniel Sims

A Hutton Honors College scholar majoring in linguistics and East Asian languages and cultures who will graduate in 2014, Sims spent this school year in Chengdu, China. Working through IU's Chinese Flagship Program, he studied at Nanjing University during the first semester and is now wrapping up an internship at Summer Institute of Linguistics, an international advocacy organization that studies minority languages and cultures around the world.

Sims is the ninth IU student to win the award, established in 1971. Each Beinecke Scholar receives $4,000 immediately before entering graduate school and an additional $30,000 while attending graduate school. There are no geographic restrictions on the use of the scholarship, and recipients are allowed to supplement the award with other scholarships, assistantships and research grants.

"I'm honored to receive this scholarship and grateful for the nomination I received from Indiana University," Sims said. "I've started looking at graduate schools, but I'm not set on one yet. And with the possibility I can study in China, it's really nice to know there's no geographic restriction on the use of the scholarship. Because I've grown up here, it'd be great to continue my language work in China."

Sims was 7 when his family moved to Chengdu, where his parents are English teachers at a nearby university. He learned Mandarin while attending public school there and fell in love with its various dialects and sister languages. During his overseas study program, he's been able to live once again with his family.

"It's kind of funny to be studying abroad in a place where I feel more at home than in the States," he said. "I'm happy to be back, but I miss IU at the same time, getting to go to basketball games, hang out with my friends. I'm looking forward to being back in Bloomington."

As part of his internship, Sims is studying a group of Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in Sichuan Province, a series of study that aligns with his research interests.

"Not a lot of places study Tibeto-Burman languages, so we're basically seeing who speaks what where and whether or not residents of different areas can understand each other," he said. "We'll record residents speaking at one location and then take those recordings to another location to get an idea if they can understand each other or not.

"I've found I really enjoy working with speakers of Tibetan languages and don't want to sit in an office all day and analyze somebody else's data. So hopefully, my future involves doing field work to preserve endangered languages or promote literacy for languages that don't have written systems."

The Chinese Flagship Program is one of three intensive language proficiency programs in IU's new School of Global and International Studies, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences. Other programs focus on Turkish and Swahili. IU students of any major, including those without any previous courses in these critical languages, may apply to participate in these programs.

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