By Abby Weingarten
During an era of rising tension between America and China, thesis student Hailey McGleam wants to help bridge the cultural divide (and combat global climate change in the process). As the first New College student to ever win the competitive graduate-level Boren Fellowship, McGleam is now well-equipped and ready to get to work.
“I was only one of five students nationwide chosen for the China area of language study for this fellowship,” said McGleam, who will graduate in May with a dual concentration in Chinese language and culture and environmental studies. “It’s going to support my research on creating an informational program for students at Nanjing University and the Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center, in order to create awareness on the dangers of single-use plastics and work with local businesses to reduce the use of these plastics.”
This boost from the Boren Fellowship (which is supported by the United States Department of State) will fund one year of graduate school for McGleam. Boren Fellowships provide up to $30,000 to graduate students in the United States to add an international and language component to their graduate education. When McGleam completes her funded year, she will be able to work for the federal government in foreign affairs.
“Hailey is the only 2021 Boren Award recipient and the first New College student to receive a Boren Fellowship,” said Duane H. Smith, Ph.D., assistant director of prestigious fellowships for New College’s Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO). “Previously, the New College Boren recipients have all received the Boren Scholarships (the undergraduate award): Val Bacharach (Estonia, 1995), Scot Kirksey (Indonesia, 1998), Isabella Cibelli DuTerroil (Azerbaijan, 2020) and Alan Swartz (Japan, 2020).”
The Boren Fellowship is quite an academic accomplishment for McGleam, but it is by no means her first. She is also a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar; a former American Culture and English Language Tutor at Fengfan Middle School in Shanghai, China; and she just defended her New College thesis entitled The Historical Considerations, Social Benefits, and Environmental Impacts of Green Spaces in Shanghai, China.
McGleam completed a study abroad program in Chinese language and culture at Shanghai University; and she has won several grants and scholarships to work with Asian American societies at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Shanghai.
Her studies at New College have enabled McGleam to combine all of her academic passions into one. While she may have started with a Chinese area of concentration, she was able to branch out and explore so much more, she said.
“I have a lot of interests in areas like art, history, science, politics and economics, and I felt that environmental studies allows and motivates you to study all of these subjects in order to understand how interdisciplinary environmental problems like climate change are,” McGleam said. “I want to create positive dialogue between the Americans and Chinese, so that we can work together to fight the looming threat globally posed by climate change. Hopefully, one day I can work in foreign affairs where I can help support cultural exchange and communication between the two countries. This is especially important in light of the recent increase in Anti-Chinese hate crimes and rising tensions overall.”
Jing Zhang, Ph.D., an associate professor of Chinese language and culture at New College, began working with McGleam as her adviser during her first year. McGleam made an instant impression on Zhang.
“I still remember her at our first meeting during new student orientation. In her self-introduction at the group advising meeting, Hailey shared that she started living on her own at 16,” Zhang said. “She impressed me from the very beginning with her bravery, independence, tremendous intellectual curiosity, and a quiet fierceness in pursuing her academic passions.”
During her four years at New College, McGleam has traveled extensively throughout the United States and China, further proving that she is able to “thrive anywhere she goes,” Zhang said. McGleam has also pursued multiple Independent Study Projects (ISPs) and tutorials under Zhang’s sponsorship that have sharpened her critical and empathetic thinking skills.
“With Hailey, I’ve sometimes felt I was working with a young colleague rather than an undergraduate student,” Zhang said. “I’m often amazed by her ability to take on a huge workload and handle multiple challenges (and even crises). I’m really excited that her hard work has paid off.”
McGleam’s global ambitions just may change the world.
Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.