Professor giving a lecture to students in old main

Chinese Department earns five awards at Palmetto Chinese Star Competition

First-year student to represent state in regional competition

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The Wofford team at the recent Palmetto Chinese Star Competition.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – A Wofford College team made up entirely of first-year students brought home the top award and other recognitions for language and cultural proficiency in the Seventh Annual Palmetto Chinese Star Competition held on March 12.

For the first time, the competition was not organized by proficiency level, so beginners competed alongside more experienced opponents, and Wofford first-year Chinese student Rachel Dantzler, a native of Homewood, Ala., came out on top. Vivian Tran, a native of Inman, S.C., was Chinese Star runner-up. Tran is also a first-year Chinese student.

Cassandra Patterson, a native of Charlotte, N.C., along with Dantzler and Tran, took first place in language proficiency with a short skit highlighting the differences between Chinese and American culture. Samuel Alford, a native of Columbia, S.C., won second place in language proficiency. Christiana Boyd, from Kennesaw, Ga., and Hunter Mestman, from Huntington, N.Y., won third place in language proficiency. Alford and Mestman are the only two students who earned awards in the competition who have previous Chinese experience.

Dantzler, who is planning to double major in Chinese and business economics, is the fifth Wofford student to win the state competition and progress to regionals. Travis Trojan ’15 won in 2015, Dillan Trojan ’16 won in 2014, Rachel Woodlee ’13 won in 2013 and Sammie Nassri ’10 won in 2010.

According to Dr. Yongfang Zhang, assistant professor of Chinese, the regional competition will consist of a cultural performance, a three-to-four-minute speech and an oral examination on Chinese culture. “It’s really exciting to win a Chinese competition as a first-year student. It also makes me nervous,” says Dantzler. “Everybody at regionals will know more Chinese than me. But that’s okay. Right now it’s just about the experience.”

Several of the students who won awards this year have never studied Chinese language before enrolling at Wofford. Zhang attributes their success to hard work and dedication.

“The students who competed came to my office, went to other teachers’ offices and rehearsed on the weekends,” she says. “Vivian Tran played a very hard piano piece. Every day when I walked to my car to leave I would see her going into the music building to practice. It’s their effort. As a professor, that’s something I love to see. My job is to give them guidance and assistance, but the students are a key part in their own learning.”

Regionals will be held on April 16 at the University of Maryland. Dantzler will sing a song, recite a speech and answer questions about Chinese culture, all in Mandarin Chinese.

By Katie Sanders, Wofford Class of 2017