Two CHASS Students Win National Scholarship

By Staci Wilson, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
May 23, 2012

CLSP—the Critical Language Scholarship Program—is supported and funded by the U.S. Department of State, with aid from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers as well as American Councils for International Education. The program began in 2006 as part of a government effort to expand American literacy in critical need foreign languages and currently offers tutelage in thirteen different tongues. Participants in the program travel abroad for about seven to ten weeks, during which time they attend intensive language institutes and participate in a series of cultural enrichment activities. This past year, the program received roughly 5,200 applications, making it one of the most competitive scholarships in the United States. Among the 2012 accepted applicants are two UC Riverside CHASS students, Jennifer Sayers (Winter 2012 graduate, global studies major) and Holly Gerrity (doctoral first year, political science major), both of whom will be studying Arabic.

Jennifer Sayers’ interest in Arabic is actually a kind of happy accident. She was required to take a certain number of language courses before graduation, and chose Arabic largely because she saw it as something different from her earlier academic experiences, and because it hadn’t been an option at her high school. Sayers soon found that she excelled in her Arabic course work, however. She began taking extra classes in the language and eventually added it as a minor. “All I know is that from the minute I chose to study Arabic, doors of opportunity have been opening up for me,” she says. Under CLSP, Sayers will travel to Salalah, Oman and study at Dhofar University, one of the newest and most modern universities in the country. She is currently preparing for medical school and beginning to consider a career in international medicine, for which her advanced language skills will be key. “I am very anxious to go,” she says of her upcoming travels, “and I am anxious to make the most out of this experience.”

Holly Gerrity, on the other hand, became interested in Arabic when she first started studying the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict as an undergraduate student. Knowing the language, she realized, might significantly increase her understanding of the region’s political complexities. In spring 2011, she received a Clinton Foundation Scholarship which allowed her to study at the American University in Dubai. There she learned the alphabet as well as some basic colloquial language skills. After her time in Dubai was up, a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship sent her to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she participated in a summer long immersion program. Since then, she has studied under Professor Ayman Ramadan here at UCR, and beginning June 10 will study in Jordan, at the Qasid Institute in Amman. In the future, she plans to continue pursuing political science research in the Middle East, with the ultimate goal of using her language skills to enhance projected field work and return as a university professor. Her instinct as a mentor is pronounced—in answering questions for this article she said, “there are awesome, free opportunities out there to supplement any student’s educational experience… it just takes time and dedication to find them. I am definitely willing to help other students obtain these same opportunities and, time permitting, even read essays that students plan to submit.”

Both students’ participation in CLSP academic activities will be fully funded by the scholarship.

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