News / People

Holzer on a mission to learn

Josh Holzer attended DU to learn languages after a stint in the Army.

Before coming to the University of Denver, Josh Holzer studied off and on at five other institutions.

As a member of the Army, he moved frequently and didn’t find a place or subject he enjoyed learning.

That all changed when Holzer started taking courses in Mandarin, Japanese history and philosophy at DU. He’ll graduate June 4 with a degree in Asian studies and a minor in philosophy.

“It feels really great,” Holzer says. “I felt like it’s been on the horizon a long time and [was] something I’d never reach. Now I feel all the doors are open.”

The doors are opening in big ways. Holzer was awarded the Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace at Middlebury College to study Chinese over the summer, and he’s been accepted to the Monterey Institute of International Studies to study international policy in the fall.

It’s a long way from the day when he joined the Army because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. The Army sent him to the Defense Language Institute to learn Chinese. He excelled and spent three years translating for the National Security Agency in Washington, D.C.

He enjoyed the work, but knew he couldn’t advance without a bachelor’s degree. After leaving the military, he wanted to continue to study language and build on that knowledge.

“I was really interested in it but didn’t know as much about the culture and history,” Holzer says. “I got to take classes that enriched my knowledge of the language.”

His professors were impressed with his enthusiasm to learn.

“Josh stood out among the undergraduates through his broad enthusiasm for learning and love of critical thinking,” says Ginni Ishimatsu, associate professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies. “He consistently asked thoughtful questions and was an articulate participant in class discussions.”

“Josh is the hardest working student I have ever taught. He has a remarkable ability to improve his work in progress,” says Michael Gibbs, DU associate professor of history.

DU’s undergraduate Commencement ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. June 4 at Magness Arena. For more information or to watch a live stream of the ceremony, visit the DU Commencement website.

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