Christina Tamaru ’12, who graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Whitman College this month, is the latest recipient of the annual Connie Jill Carlstrom Endowed Award for Japanese Studies.
The Carlstrom Award, which includes a $2,000 cash prize, is presented each spring to one or more students who demonstrate outstanding achievement in Japanese language and culture. The award honors Connie Jill Carlstrom ’93, who died while teaching English in Japan. Her parents, Connie and Roger Carlstrom of Yakima, Wash., established the award in her memory. This year marked the 19th straight year the couple has traveled to their daughter’s alma mater to present the award.
"I am incredibly grateful to the Carlstrom family for the generosity and kindness they have extended to so many students over the years," Tamaru said. "This award will help support my future studies in either education or Japanese language."
An Asian Studies major from Honolulu, Hawaii, Tamaru spent her junior year studying abroad in Japan through the Associated Kyoto Program, where she took advanced language classes. After returning to Whitman, she served as a teaching assistant, language tutor and student mentor.
Tamaru also completed an honors thesis about Japan that explores the concept of “herbivorous” men (sōshoku kei danshi) and how these men must negotiate their masculinity in a culture that normally promotes a more traditional image of men and their masculinity. She presented her findings at a panel on gender studies at the Whitman Undergraduate Conference in April.
"I feel that in my time at Whitman I have come to appreciate the breadth and depth of academic experiences afforded by such an interdisciplinary and geographically diverse program as Asian Studies," she said. "My friends and mentors have guided me towards intellectual inquisitiveness and have fostered seeds of character that I hope to take with me in my future."
Starting in the fall, Tamaru will teach Japanese language to high school students as part of the Mentoring at Punahou Program at Punahou School in Honolulu.
"Christina will work in the mentoring program to gain valuable experience in teaching Japanese language," said Ron Takemoto, Whitman assistant professor of Japanese. "Her work as a mentor in the Whitman Japanese program and her study in Kyoto at the AKP Center makes this a wonderful post-Whitman experience. I am pleased that she will work to teach and share her passion for Japan and Japanese culture."
Although unsure where her long-term career path will lead, Tamaru hopes to continue to use her language skills to educate.
"If I find that I have a passion for teaching during this next year, I most likely will pursue an education degree and aspire to teach the Japanese language and culture to future generations of students," she said. "No matter what I end up doing, I would like to use my language skills to serve in a cross-cultural context."
This year’s Carlstrom Award presentation was a particularly special occasion, reuniting award winners from years past. Those in attendance included alumnae Lisa Dodobara Griffith ’03, who is completing her residency at a hospital in Yakima, Wash.; Seanacey Pierce ’07, who works with Takemoto as a program administrator for the Associated Kyoto Program at Whitman; and Kendall Shibuya ’10, who works at the Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and plans to apply to medical school next year.
"I feel honored to be part of a long legacy of students who have received the Carlstrom award and who have contributed to the history of the Japanese program at Whitman," Tamaru said.