A world of education

Notre Dame alum takes his passion for all things international to MSU, China and the U.P.

When Marshall Weimer NDP'17 was a rising sophomore at Notre Dame Prep, he and five other classmates spent part of their summer in Costa Rica on a trip designed to bring a global perspective to the school's international curriculum. They also spent a number of days helping out needy schoolchildren in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.

When it was time for Weimer as an NDP senior to choose his extended essay as one of the school's 42 International Baccalaureate Diploma Program candidates, he chose one dealing with U.S. polices toward foreign languages in education and culture.

Now, as a junior at Michigan State University, Weimer, a double major in Chinese and Fisheries and Wildlife: Conservation Biology with a minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies, recently finished up an eight-week stint studying fourth-year Chinese at the Harbin Institute of Technology, a research university located in northern China.

It's clear that Weimer has been fascinated with the greater world and all it offers in terms of language and culture. It's also clear that his Notre Dame education was instrumental in fostering his worldview, especially his Mandarin classes, which began in NDPMA's middle school. 


"Notre Dame's Chinese classes definitely boosted my love of foreign languages, which I’ve held tightly in my heart since I could read and speak," he said. "How many American middle or high school students get to study a language other than Spanish or French? Not many, I would guess. One area of the language that I credit Notre Dame and Mrs. [Joanne] Liu for is greatly improving my ability to read and write Chinese characters. All those characters sheets did pay off in the end. To me, reading certain characters is more akin to instinct now; I just see some characters and I think, 'Oh, yeah, I know those ones.'"

New way of thinking

Weimer admits, however, that sometimes the inherent meanings of Chinese characters and words escape him, and pronunciation occasionally is a struggle, especially, he says, with a language that is very tonal in nature like Mandarin. 

"My oral Chinese skills, including my listening, were a bit lacking, and I have a long way to go before I would even dare call myself fluent," he said. "That is why I studied Mandarin over in China at Harbin along with a few other MSU classmates and international students. Language learning is a lifelong process, as many of the English-speaking Chinese there told me about their studies of English. It is long and hard, but the reward is a whole new way of thinking and seeing the world."

Weimer's expanding world going forward includes a plan to find a new program to put him in China for a least another year, so he can continue to improve his fluency and speaking skills. 

"The Boren Scholarship through the federal government is my current number-one path," he said. "This program sends students of languages that the United States government critically needs to their chosen tongue’s homeland. In my case, it would be China."

He said he would study for up to a year abroad, fully immersed in the language everyday, and then return home. Afterward, he'd like to land a job with the U.S. government in the departments of Defense, State or Agriculture. 

Back to nature

"My primary major at Michigan State is Fisheries and Wildlife, with a concentration in Conservation Biology and Ecology," said Weimer, who earned five scholarships and awards this year from MSU, including the S.C. Lee Scholarship Award from the Asian Studies Center and the Peter Tack Undergraduate Scholarship in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "I would like to do ecological restoration projects in China, working to rewild areas in the country important not just to the flora and fauna, but to the Chinese people as well."

Closer to home, Weimer said he eventually wouldn't mind working to help return certain urban areas to their original, natural state.

"Urban restoration includes returning urban centers back to nature, creating greenspaces that benefit those areas ecologically, economically and culturally the way God intended them to be," he said. "Detroit would be an ideal starting place with all the open fields now scattered throughout the city."

For now, though, after a busy summer and busier fall, Weimer is concentrating on his MSU studies, which have been most thoroughly supplemented by his stint in China over the summer and three weeks in a "Study Away Michigan" program where he explored the lower and upper peninsulas to learn more about the ecological history of the state.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org.

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.
About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three school are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org