Studying Chinese takes Ph.D. student Brendan Flynn to Taiwan via Boren Award

Brendan FlynnBecoming fluent in Mandarin is a goal Political Science Ph.D. student Brendan Flynn has held for several years. A major step toward that goal will begin in August thanks to Brendan's receiving a Boren Fellowship.

Boren Awards, which fund research and language study for graduate students in world regions critical to U.S. interests, are an initiative of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office in the Department of Defense. Only 121 graduate fellowships were offered this year nationwide.

"This award is going to give me the incredible opportunity to study Chinese in Taiwan intensively for a year," says Flynn. "I will be going to three to four hours of Chinese class for five days a week and just really immersing myself in the environment and speaking Chinese as much as possible. It's why I'm so excited for the opportunity."

Flynn says he's been studying Chinese on and off for over a decade, with his interest beginning when he was an undergraduate student. "From 2015 to 2016, I was in Beijing teaching English, but that didn't leave me a lot of time or energy for studying Chinese. It did, however, reaffirm my interest in China, the language, and the relationship with the U.S., so I've been committed to learning the language independently in addition to my Wayne studies ever since."

Flynn's interest in China began with the language but progressed to include the nation's history. Right now, he finds understanding the relationship between China and the U.S. particularly important. "The U.S. has been the most powerful country since at least World War II, and the rest of the world's structure reflects that. But in some ways, China's economy has already surpassed the U.S. economy. You have this transitional moment where China threatens to overtake the U.S., and a lot of our current tensions come from that. I really think the rest of the 21st century is going to be shaped by how the U.S. and China navigate this relationship. That's the key thing driving my interest in the region."

Flynn hopes to use his practical knowledge to work toward his long-term goal as a professor of international relations. "If you look historically, any time you have an established great power and then a rising great power, that has resulted in a period of real tension and often times war, unfortunately. I don't think that tension is going away, I'm interested in better understanding that and how we can navigate through it without a war outcome."

Flynn says he is thankful the Department of Political Science at Wayne State University provides assistance with opportunities such as this. "The chance to be a full-time Ph.D. student and focus on my studies - the department is excellent; my understanding of international relations has really come a long way at Wayne State."

About Wayne State University

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit

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