Critical Language Scholarship Program | CLS Alumni News

CLS Alumni News

Winter 2020

2019 Photo Contest

Each fall, the Critical Language Scholarship Program invites participants from that summer’s programs to reflect on their learning abroad by submitting photos with thoughtful captions to the annual photo contest.

We are grateful to the 71 CLS Scholars from the 2019 program who submitted a total of 164 photos to the contest this year, representing 14 CLS languages and 22 program sites. The CLS team had a wonderful time reviewing the photos and reading the reflective captions.

The 13 winning photos appear in the 2020 CLS Calendar, which has been sent to members of the greater CLS community and all alumni who entered the photo contest this year. Photo contest winners and honorable mentions are also being showcased on social media platforms. Check out our Facebook and Instagram pages to see them!

Alumni Outreach

CLS alumni are instrumental in our outreach efforts to prospective CLS applicants. As much as CLS staff like to travel, we aren’t able to be everywhere, so we rely on our wonderful alumni to help extend our reach. This fall, while the application for the 2020 CLS Program was open, students across the U.S. heard first-hand from CLS alumni about the impact of the program.

From September to November of 2019, dozens of CLS alumni conducted independent outreach activities and supported CLS staff on a variety of campus visits around the country. Our 2019 Alumni Ambassadors led the way, attending study abroad fairs and arranging campus visits in their communities, like Sarina Haryanto (Indonesian 2018), and Olivia Moffett (Chinese 2018) who each organized several visits to DC-area institutions and supported many staff members on their visits, providing the recent alumni perspective that students love to hear. Jason Chen (Chinese 2018) was busy spreading the word in Utah and Jacob Burch-Konda (Chinese 2018) in Oklahoma, reaching areas of the country that are less well-represented by CLS Scholars. To learn more about the multitude of activities our Alumni Ambassadors took on in 2019, read the 2019 Alumni Ambassador Year in Review

In addition, many other CLS alumni joined in the recruitment efforts, like Grace Bologna (Japanese 2016), who presented about her experience on the CLS Program to high school students studying Japanese at the Kobe College Corporation-Japan Education Exchange annual board meeting in Chicago, IL. Samantha Creel (Arabic 2017), who represented the CLS Program at the University of Florida study abroad fair and was a recipient of an Alumni Recruitment Grant said, “It’s great to continue to feel supported by CLS as an alumna, and I love talking to students about this opportunity—it had a profound impact on me and so few students here know about it!”

Are you interested in doing outreach for the CLS Program in your community? Visit our CLS Alumni Outreach page for resources to support your activities!

Honors and Awards

We love to see the many honors and awards CLS alumni receive to continue their linguistic, professional, academic and personal development.

Collin Walsh (Bangla 2013) was selected for the 2020 cohort of Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellows. Collin is an alumnus of Southern Connecticut State University, where he graduated with a B.S. in Political Science in 2008 and of Indiana University Maurer School of Law. He currently works for the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Affairs Officer. The Pickering Fellowship, funded by the U.S. Department of State and supported in its implementation by Howard University, provides graduate fellowships to qualified college seniors and college graduates committed to joining the Foreign Service. 

William Cullen (Hindi 2019) and Michael DeLuca (Chinese 2017) were two of 145 selected for the 2020-21 Schwarzman Scholarship Program, which allows young leaders to deepen understanding between China and the rest of the world by providing them the opportunity to pursue a Masters in Global Affairs at Tsinghua University in Beijing. William is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College, where he studied Environment, Economics, and Politics and is currently a Fellow at the World Resources Institute in Dehli. Michael is a graduate of New York University, where he studied Politics and Chinese and currently works at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Jada Bullen (Arabic 2015), Abisola James (Chinese 2017), and Ivan Pineda (Chinese 2018) were all selected as 2020 Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellows. Jada is an alumna of Georgetown University and is currently a Research Analyst at Egon Zehnder. Abisola will graduate in 2020 from Agnes Scott College, where she studies International Relations. Ivan is an alumnus of the University of South Florida and is currently a Compliance Analyst at Capco. Rangel Fellows are supported in obtaining graduate degrees and honing their professional skills through internships in the U.S. Congress and overseas at U.S. embassies and consulates, and are committed to becoming Foreign Service Officers of the U.S. Department of State.

Five teams that include Critical Language Scholarship alumni were awarded Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund grants to support work that furthers learning of language and culture in the U.S. The four projects funded with CLS alumni are:

  • “IExChange 2020 – International Education Exchange,” a day-long TEDx-style conference with the aim of increasing the participation of U.S. minority populations in international exchanges
  • “Navigating Life Post-Exchange Experience,” providing professional development and networking opportunities to recently returned exchange alumni
  • “We Are America – Increasing Diversity in Exchange,” which aims to increase the participation of minority, low-income, and community college students in international exchanges
  • “Translating Migration: Poetry as Inclusive Dialogue,” which will highlight migrant writers from different cultures, experiences, and geographic locations through writing workshops
  • "Nuestras Huellas: Stories of LGBTQ+ Youth," a digital storytelling workshop for low-income LGBTQ+ youth to be developed in collaboration with Nicaraguan nonprofit Huellas de Paz.

Aletta Brady (Arabic 2015) founded an organization, Our Climate Voices, which was on of ten organizations out of over 1300 applicants to be awarded the 2019 JMK Innovation Prize for catalytic change initiatives. The JMK Innovation Prize is awarded biennially to organizations tackling America's pressing challenges through social innovation.

Have you received an honor or award? Email us—we’d love to hear about it!

Alumni Activities

The CLS Alumni Society (CLSAS) held two events in the fall, convening alumni in Washington D.C. and New York City. CLSAS is an independent, alumni-led organization that provides CLS alumni with avenues for professional development, community engagement, and language retention. Visit their Membership page for more information on getting involved.

CLSAS organized a coffee meet-up where alumni of the CLS Program, CBYX, and NSLI-Y joined CLSAS President Tucker Boyce (Turkish 2015, 2017) for networking and conversation about different international education opportunities.

CLSAS also partnered with Project Pengyou to host a visit to the Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, NY. The group explored the “Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant” exhibit to learn about the evolution of Chinese American restaurants and the intersections of food, culture, and immigration. Attendees enjoyed tasting Chinese American cuisine at the museum’s KitchenAid Culinary Studio and followed the event with a networking happy hour. 

CLS Program Officers Syejeong Kim and Chris Stiles had the pleasure of catching up with several CLS alumni at the ACTFL Annual Convention and World Languages Expo in Washington, D.C., including Christina Cannon (Arabic 2014), Sarina Haryanto (Indonesian 2018), Tiffani Jones (Urdu 2008), Michael Marsh-Soloway (Russian 2011), and Iker Sedeno (Korean 2018).

Alumni in the News

Clara Haizlett(Arabic 2017) was featuredby West Virginia Public Broadcasting for her podcast, “Sandstone,” which seeks to created understanding between her home in Appalachia and the Arab world. Clara’s podcast was supported in its development by the CLS Alumni Development Fund and to date, she has produced 8 episodes of the podcast.

Siobhan Heekin-Canedy(Russian 2016) wrote an article about sports diplomacy for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs. Siobhan is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Tufts University with a focus on Russia and Eastern Europe.

2019 Alumni Ambassador Jacob Burch-Konda (Turkish 2018) wrote an article for his university’s news about a delegation of the Azerbaijani government to Oklahoma State University to celebrate a new partnership focused on agricultural education. This topic is of particular interest to Jacob, as a student in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources as well as the Animal Science Department and having studied Turkish in Azerbaijan.

Rebecca King(Russian 2019) was highlightedin her university’s news for being the first student in the history of the University of Delaware to receive both a Boren Award and a Critical Language Scholarship.

Keep up to date with CLS alumni in the news by following our News and Stories page!

Alumni Updates

Do you have any updates you’d like to share with the CLS Program? We love it when alumni keep in touch—email us any time at to share what’s new in your life. We also love being tagged in your posts on social media! (Facebook and Instagram @CLScholarship, Twitter @CLSscholarship)

Each year, the CLS Program shares a list of our new alumni with Representatives, Senators, and Governors. The notifications for 2019 alumni were sent at the beginning of December, so 2019 alumni may be receiving letters of congratulation from your elected officials. If you do, we’d love it if you shared them on social media and tagged us!

As alumni are always interested in the process of using their Non-Competitive Eligibility for Federal Civil Service hiring, we’d like to hear from you if you’ve been through the process. If you’ve successfully used your NCE for a new job, please email us about it.

Posted Date

January 03, 2020