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Student Spotlight

Mariana Freitas

Mariana Freitas

Will knowing Mandarin help MSIR student?

A Morgantown resident recently complained about finding a perfect job opportunity on the West Virginia University jobs postings web site—interesting, good pay, good benefits—but which in the last line said, "Must speak Mandarin."

That would eliminate a lot of people from the job pool, including the woman who was looking for a post at WVU.

However, Mariana Freitas would be perfect for it. Although she doesn't finish her Master of Science in Industrial Relations and MBA education until August of 2013, that job could have been hers.

Freitas was born in Salvador, Brazil, but has lived in Bridgeport, W.Va., much of her life. A sociology undergraduate at WVU, she has had a long-lasting interest in foreign cultures and languages, and speaks Mandarin.

She was already fluent in Portuguese, the language of Brazil, so when she was faced with a language requirement for her undergraduate degree she opted for a non-Romance language, enrolling in WVU's new Chinese program led by Dr. Huey Hannah Lin. Freitas was in the second class to graduate from the program, and during the summer of 2008 she attended Ming Chuan University and participated in daily, intensive Mandarin classes.

To Americans, speaking Mandarin seems unique. The fact is that the language is spoken by more people than any other on Earth—720 million compared to 480 million who speak English.

Although there seems to be some dispute as to whether speaking Chinese is a ticket to a treasure-trove of professional jobs, there is no doubt as to China's status as a world economic power. It recently surpassed Japan as the world's second largest economy and some say the Chinese may edge by the United States in the next decade.

For Freitas, who hopes to go into human resources management in the Morgantown area, it's not a big deal. "The primary reason I studied Mandarin was purely for enjoyment," Freitas said. "The added value of knowing a language that can potentially help me get a job is wonderful, and if I can use it in the future that will be great. I don't think the knowledge of any second language is overrated, but I don't think anyone should depend on that skill as a primary selling point in applying for jobs."

A McNair Scholars student, Freitas found that an MBA and a master's degree education in human resources was a good way to combine her major in sociology and minor in business. "I believe my choice of graduate school really brought together what I'd already learned, and I'll be able to apply what I've learned in my professional career," she said.

Freitas said she liked how WVU's business graduate programs combine qualitative and quantitative elements. "I didn't expect such a mix," she said. "The programs make sure you know the quantitative fundamentals and also how to apply them to how a business really works. There's a nice balance between numbers and ideas."

She did a second summer studying Chinese in 2010, this time at Qingdao and Beijing, China, and last spring semester did a human resources internship at GrafTech International in Parma, Ohio, a company that produces electrodes. This internship set her interest in human resources as a future profession. "I helped in recruiting and interviewing processes, developed brochures, participated in job fairs, and created position profiles and hiring announcements and found that I really like it," she said.

She has another human resources internship with WVU Hospitals Inc. and is also a commuter student program graduate assistant with WVU's Student Affairs Office.

She is to be married spring of 2013 and if all goes well will be staying right in the Morgantown area, whether she uses Mandarin or not.

"I grew up moving around a lot," she said. "I really like the Morgantown area, I've already put down roots here, and I'd love to be able to stay in West Virginia."