Kristin Carosella was a bright, curious, and deeply empathetic woman. Ever since she was a child, she’d been fascinated by Asian culture, first becoming interested in anime, which then evolved into a desire to learn more about Japan and its people. At Michigan, she found her place.
As an undergraduate at U-M, Kristin was excited to be a part of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, where she happily dove into learning Japanese and connected with a tight-knit group of other students who shared the same passions she did.
“Kristin valued the academics at U-M—she valued the environment, and she thought the caliber of people was great,” says her mother, Debbie. “She had found her tribe.”
Kristin also believed in relationships, in building bridges and making connections between peoples and cultures. She pushed herself to understand cultural differences and inspired others to do the same.
“Kristin always encouraged people to get along,” says Debbie. “She could always see situations from other peoples’ viewpoints, and she was receptive to peoples’ differences. She wanted to make people feel like they belonged.”
After her graduation in 2013, Kristin was excited to take a job teaching English in China, even though she did not know Chinese. In characteristic fashion, Kristin pushed herself to learn and grow, and she mastered the language in a year and a half, all the while enjoying teaching children and exploring life in rural China.
Tragically, Kristin passed away in September 2014. Through her grief, Kristin’s mother Debbie thought about how much Kristin had mattered to so many people—her friends, her family, her professors, her academic cohort. So she began to think about a way to create a lasting legacy in honor of her daughter.
Debbie with daughter Kristin.
“I asked, ‘What would Kristin love? What would make her smile?’” says Debbie. “And I knew it had to be Michigan.”
So Debbie decided to create the Kristin Carosella Memorial Scholarship in the department where Kristin found her niche: the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. The scholarship supports a promising student in Japanese, Chinese, or Korean with plans to move to one of those countries after graduation, just as Kristin did.
Initially, Debbie and some of her close friends contributed to the fund, and then family and friends across the country began to chip in. During her fundraising efforts, Debbie visited the University and met Donald Lopez, the chair of the department and the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies. Lopez, who had considered Kristin a wonderful student and person, was determined to help raise even more money for the scholarship.
“Kristin was beloved and respected by the faculty and staff of our department,” says Lopez. “Her enthusiasm, intelligence, diligence, and dedication were unmatched, winning the affection of her teachers and the admiration of her fellow students.”
So Lopez got on the phone and was able to secure support from the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, the Center for Japanese Studies, the Nam Center for Korean Studies, Anthropology, ALC itself, and the dean's office to add to the scholarship fund.
This past year, the very first Kristin Carosella Scholarship was awarded to junior Kendall Dumas, who plans to go to Korea to teach after graduation.
“This scholarship has opened up so many opportunities for me already,” says Dumas. “Even though I have yet to graduate, I have already received immense support from the Carosella family. I’m incredibly thankful for their invaluable assistance, and I can only hope to I make them proud in the years to come. It is a great honor to be the inaugural recipient of the scholarship, and I cannot wait to see it grow and develop to further assist those wishing to teach in Asia.”
In addition, Debbie and her friends and family decided to create a second scholarship in Intergroup Relations, which was another important part of Kristin’s U-M experience. Kristin was a student leader in IGR, and the scholarship will honor that other significant piece of her college career.
“Kristin was just kindness. Always,” says Debbie. “She had found her purpose and passion. I quote her last post from when she was abroad—‘I love where I am, the people I work with, and I wouldn’t trade this for anything.’ I know more than anything that she would appreciate that we can do this for other students.”