Toby Johnson Receives U.S. State Department Award

By Eileen Chu, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

Congratulation to Toby Johnson! Johnson, a Ph.D. student of the Religious Studies Department, has received a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Toby will study this summer, from June 11th, 2008 to August 23rd, 2008, at the Punjabi institution in India. The applicant pool was highly competitive, but the review panels found his application extremely impressive.

The goal of the Critical Language Scholarship Program is interested in expanding the number of Americans for studying and mastering critical-need foreign languages. This program was established in 2006, offering oversea language studies for students in many countries where Arabic, Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu are spoken. In 2007, Chinese, Korean, Persian, and Russian were added to list. The Critical Language Scholarship Program encourages teachers, students, undergraduates, and graduates to engage with foreign governments and people groups to develop an understanding and respect of other cultures.

Johnson was overwhelmed after hearing the news. I am really fortunate for this great opportunity to attend an intensive language program in the Punjab which will allow me to examine Sikh manuscripts as part of my dissertation. I am thankful for the support of the Department of Religious Studies; especially, Professors Singh, McDaniel, and Jacobs. I am gad that these programs are devoting time and resources to help build Sikh studies in the university.

Professor and Chair June OConnor said, "I was delighted to learn this news both for Toby Johnson and for his teacher and mentor, Professor Pashaura Singh.  This award represents initiative, imagination, and desire on the part of Toby Johnson and it reflects very well on Professor Singh as well.  Other students are likely to benefit by becoming more aware of these sorts of awards, given the importance of language study in our field."

Toby Johnson earned his Masters degree in Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University. His current research includes the development and transmission of Sikh hagiographies and the text's influence on the Sikh community.


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