Three students selected as 2020 Weir Fellows

Three students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were selected as recipients of the 2020 William D. Weir Honors Fellowship in Asian Studies, a program designed for students who have started their Chinese language journey and would like to develop advanced working language skills in order to bridge the linguistic and cultural divides between our two nations.

Second-year students Tanisha Paul and Ray Shealy, and Gabrielle Rousey will join the ranks of Carolina students and alumni who have been awarded the prestigious Weir Fellowship during the program’s many successful years. Recipients spend the spring semester in Beijing for intensive language study at the CET Chinese Language Center hosted at Capital Normal University. They then devote eight weeks during the summer to an internship in Shanghai to put their advanced professional language skills in application. Internships are customized to match a broad range of student interests, from law and business to the arts, journalism, and health and human services. 

The William D. Weir Honors Fellowships in Asian Studies were established in 1995 by Peter Boneparth ‘80 and Heather Weir Boneparth ‘80, to honor Heather’s late father, William Donald Weir. He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and following a long career with defense contractors and consultants to the Pentagon, Mr. Weir joined the State Department as a foreign services reserve officer and expert in US naval expenditures for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency as they engaged in the SALT-START talks.  The fellowship was conceived while Peter was serving as the CEO of the Jones Apparel Group and recognized the importance of having employees with Chinese language skills to creating lasting business relationships with partners in China. He came to believe the long-term, sustainable success between the two countries would be predicated on many more U.S. citizens immersing themselves in the language and culture of China.

Tanisha Paul, a second-year student from Charlotte, North Carolina is double-majoring in business Administration and Global Studies. Tanisha began studying Mandarin when she was six years old, and it has always been her favorite subject. She has persistently pursued her interest in the Chinese culture and language by studying in Nanjing in high school, conducting research on China’s energy security, and teaching a Chinese Language and Culture Seminar at the North Carolina School of Science and Math. Through the Weir Fellowship, she hopes to gain a professional and native level of fluency where she can negotiate business deals in China. In the future, Tanisha hopes to significantly enhance the United States’ political and economic relationship with China.

Gabrielle Rousey, a second-year student from Atkinson, North Carolina, is majoring in Economics. Gabrielle is passionate about studying behavioral economics and learning what factors and thought processes contribute the most during decision-making. With an understanding that language is the heart of any culture, Gabrielle seeks to improve her Chinese fluency so that she can experience Chinese culture more authentically by personally connecting with others. Through the Weir Fellowship, Gabrielle hopes to attain a fluency that allows her to work in the field of consumer research where she can study how China’s unique economic, cultural, and political climate affects the consumption of foreign goods. 

Ray Shealy, a second-year student from Cornelius, NC, is a computer science and Chinese major. Ray has studied Chinese for 5 years and enjoys the rigor and discipline of the language. He loves practicing writing and speaking Chinese with his peers at UNC and creating connections with people of similar interests. His other academic interests include computer science, math, and business. Since arriving at UNC, Ray has explored many subjects, but his love for Chinese stays constant. The Weir Fellowship will allow Ray to understand Chinese culture through language and think differently about the world. He plans to use his knowledge of Chinese and apply it to his field of computer science, developing a connection between the United States and China.

William D. Weir Honors Fellowships in Asian Studies offer Carolina undergraduates a unique opportunity to develop their language skills and gain practical, independent work experience in China. The fellowship is open to all UNC Chapel Hill undergraduates with at least three semesters in residence, a 3.2 GPA or higher, and at least three semesters of Chinese language.

The Fellowship covers most of the program expenses, including CET program fees, airfare, housing, textbooks, excursions, and medical insurance. Students contribute the equivalent of UNC tuition for one semester and cover their food and personal expenses.

Read more about the Weir Fellowships on the program’s website.

 Weir Honors Fellowships in Asian Studies contact: Gina Difino, (919) 962-9680,