Challenger Student and Engineering Professor Recognized for Commitment to Learning – Posted 4/22/15

Three County College of Morris (CCM) students are the recipients of the 2015 Japanese Language and Culture Study Award granted by the New Jersey Association of Teachers of Japanese (NJATJ) at Seton Hall University.

Rebecca Katko, of Long Valley; Brittany Somol, of Morris Plains; and Nicholas Carlson, of Randolph, were nominated by CCM Japanese Professor Ayako Morrell for their commitment to learning Japanese language and culture.

Katko, 17, is a participant in CCM’s Challenger program, which allows high school students to enrich their education by taking college-level courses.

Katko and Morrell attended the NJATJ Japanese Language and Culture Study Award ceremony at Seton Hall University in March where the Challenger student accepted her certificate. Although Katko is still in high school, she is enrolled in the highest level of Japanese offered at CCM – Intermediate Japanese II.

“Japanese is a very complicated language, but I find the writing system very interesting and fun,” Katko says.

Carlson, an adjunct engineering professor and a non-matriculated student at CCM, has wanted to learn Japanese since high school but didn’t have the opportunity until he started teaching at the college.

“I was looking through the languages at CCM and Japanese jumped out at me,” Carlson says. “Since it is hard to find schools around here that teach it, I figured I would take the opportunity.”

Carlson, who is enrolled in Intermediate Japanese I, is studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and intends to visit Japan later this year. He says the country is “fertile ground” for technology start-ups.

“I’m interested in seismic engineering and that’s a big topic in Japan with designing buildings for resisting earthquakes,” Carlson says.

CCM offers courses in Japanese along with 11 other languages including American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. To learn more about the language program, visit

Photo: (l-r) Professor Ayako Morrell with two of her three award-winning Japanese language students Rebecca Katko and Nicholas Carlson.

Credit: Talia Smith