Scholarships Lead to an Expertise in Linguistics

By Mary McInerney, Office of Development Communications Posted Mon, 08/17/2015 - 10:57

Luopeng Zheng ’15 is heading to Oxford in the fall to study Japanese historical linguistics. He speaks seven languages and came to USF after graduating from a large public high school in Atlantic City, N.J.

At USF, he says, he received the one-to-one attention from professors that enabled him to become a top student, graduating with a grade point average of nearly 4.0. More importantly, he credits his experience here with enriching him as an intellectual. It wouldn't have been possible without scholarships, he says.

“You can only find this type of education at Oxford and Cambridge, and somehow I found it here,” he says. “I had that opportunity here. It is possible, and it is a very special opportunity.”

Luopeng, 23, is Asian American and was born in China, and he returned to the U.S. as a child with his mother. The first in his family to attend college, he majored in Asian studies and minored in both Chinese and Japanese. He is fluent in both and studied the classical languages of both, too. He also studied classical Greek at USF, as well as Latin in high school. He speaks French and Korean and is learning Russian in his spare time.

He is certainly one of my most original and best students. It's been a privilege to mentor such a student.

Professor Antoni J. Ucerler, S.J., Director of the Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History

At USF, he says he has been able to succeed at a high level, because he got to know his professors well and enjoyed small class sizes. He was also given the opportunity to do independent research as an undergraduate, taking more than 10 directed studies, faculty-supervised student research projects for which students can earn credit.

One of his favorite professors is Antoni J. Ucerler, S.J., director of the Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History and a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. Professor Ucerler is also a fellow of east Asian studies at Campion Hall, at the University of Oxford. Luopeng credits Professor Ucerler with directing him to Oxford’s world-renowned linguistics program.

“He is certainly one of my most original and best students,” says Professor Ucerler, who is an expert in Japanese samurai history.

“As a result, I encouraged him to apply to Oxford University, where I am also still on the faculty of Oriental Studies. I guided him through the application for a master's, to be followed by doctoral course, in Japanese linguistics. It's been a privilege to mentor such a student.”

While at USF, Luopeng sat in on graduate seminars, and he had the opportunity to do research, presenting his topic — “Investigating Manchu Converb from a Diachronic Cross-linguistic Perspective” — at Creative Activity and Research Day in April, hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences. He also shared his research with the faculty of USF’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

Luopeng was the recipient of several donor-supported scholarships, including the Kai Chong Tong Scholarship for top students whose ancestors are from China, the Marie du Dampiere Scholarship for language students, and the E & W Towle Scholarship for academically eligible undergraduates. He also received a scholarship for Asian studies undergraduates and worked as a tutor in the writing center on campus. As a University Scholar, he also was part of a cohort of students recognized for extraordinary scholarship and aptitude with a renewable university scholarship each year.

As he moves toward his goal of becoming a college professor, Luopeng is grateful for the scholarships that ensured his education at USF, and he has a message for donors.

“These scholarships offered me a great opportunity to do research and become a historical linguist,” Luopeng says. “Without them, it would not be possible for me to work with the prominent scholars at USF. I feel greatly indebted to you for all of your kindness.”

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This gift was made in support of Changing the World from Here: Campaign for the University of San Francisco.