WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Maja Palmer, who graduated May 21 from Whitman College with honors in Asian Studies, is the latest recipient of the annual Connie Jill Carlstrom Endowed Award for Japanese Studies.
The Carlstrom Award, which includes a $1,500 cash award, is presented each spring to one or more outstanding students of Japanese language and culture who are interested in pursuing graduate studies and possibly a career in some aspect of U.S.-Japan relations. Palmer plans to continue her Japanese studies in a master's degree program at the University of Southern California.
The family and friends of the late Connie Jill Carlstrom of Yakima, Wash., established the award in her memory. Ms. Carlstrom, who graduated from Whitman in May, 1993, was teaching English in Tamamura, Japan, as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program when she died in September, 1993.
"Like Jill (Carlstrom), Maja has a strong interest in Japanese literature," notes Akira Ron Takemoto, a Whitman assistant professor of Japanese. "While at Whitman, Jill and Maja both found great joy in reading; they particularly loved the essays by Sei Shonagon from the early 11th century, and the meditative ruminations by Yoshida Kenko from the 14th century."
After taking a variety of Japanese language and literature classes in her first two years at Whitman, Palmer spent her junior year at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, as part of the prestigious Associated Kyoto Program. She returned to Whitman as a senior to write an honors thesis on Ariyoshi Sawako (1931-1984), a novelist and playwright who gained a wide audience during the past five decades, both in Japan and internationally, for her novels on social themes. Palmer's thesis, which examined the women in Ariyoshi's world, included a translation of two chapters from her novel Akujo ni Tsuite (Regarding an Evil Woman).
Palmer, who lived in Tekisuijuku, Whitman's Japanese language house, during much of her time on campus, earned a 3.8 grade-point average (on a 4.0 scale) in her Asian Studies major. She graduated cum laude from Whitman, which requires a cumulative grade point average of 3.6 for all classes.
"Maja certainly showed what persistence, hard work, and commitment can do," Takemoto said. "The way she worked to translate selected chapters of Ariyoshi's novel reminded me of the stubborn and strong spirit of Jill Carlstrom. In many ways, I saw a lot of Jill in Maja. They both worked hard, and they demanded that I work right along with them."
Palmer is the daughter of David and Nan Palmer of Redmond, Wash. She is a 1996 graduate of Mount Si High School, Snoqualmie, Wash.
Connie and Roger Carlstrom of Yakima, Wash., parents of Connie Jill Carlstrom, visited Whitman for the awards presentation earlier this month. "This award has become an important one for Japanese studies at Whitman, and I am honored that the Carlstroms come every year to join us in honoring one of our top students," Takemoto said.