Critical Language Scholarship Program | CLS Alumni News

CLS Alumni News

Spring 2020

As you may be aware, on March 11, 2020, the U.S Department of State issued Global Level 3 Health Advisory – Reconsider Travel. In light of this Travel Advisory, the CLS Program suspended all CLS summer language institutes for 2020. We know that this decision was a great disappointment for those who submitted applications this cycle. In the end, however, the health and well-being of our program participants was our most important consideration.

Despite the difficulties and uncertainties we are all facing now, we would like to continue highlighting the work and accomplishments of the CLS alumni community. We wish everyone good health and positive spirits during this challenging time.

Introducing the 2020 Alumni Ambassadors

In January, the CLS Program selected 23 alumni of the 2019 intensive summer institutes through a competitive application process to serve as Alumni Ambassadors for the 2020 calendar year. The new cohort of CLS Alumni Ambassadors represent 14 CLS languages and 19 program sites. Selected Alumni Ambassadors come from 22 different U.S. higher education institutions and 17 different U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Get to know the new Alumni Ambassadors in the coming weeks as we add their profiles to the CLS website. 

2020 CLS Alumni Ambassadors gather for a group photo in Washington, DC at the 10th annual Alumni Ambassador Forum

On March 3 and 4, the CLS Program welcomed the 2020 Alumni Ambassadors to Washington, D.C. for the 10th annual Alumni Ambassador Forum, providing them professional development and training to serve in their new role representing the program to a variety of audiences. Alumni Ambassadors got to know each other and CLS Program staff, working together through sessions and workshops, sharing meals and even taking in a little sunshine for a group photo.

Alumni Development Fund

Each year, the CLS Alumni Development Fund (ADF) offers small grants to alumni of the CLS Program through a competitive application process. The ADF is designed to provide opportunities for alumni to continue their language learning, pursue career development goals, and participate in community outreach related to CLS languages and their corresponding world regions. Particular emphasis is placed on projects with an impact beyond the individual applicant, reaching students, CLS alumni, or others in their community.

For the 2020 ADF cycle, the CLS Program funded 31 projects proposed by 42 alumni. Seven of the funded proposals were for group projects involving multiple CLS alumni and represented a wide range of activities, including alumni events, cultural and academic events, digital storytelling projects, language groups, and a variety of other innovative projects. ADF projects this year represent twelve CLS Program years and 12 of the CLS languages.

We look forward to sharing the many accomplishments of this year’s Alumni Development Fund recipients in the coming months as they are able to complete their projects. The deadline for completing projects this year has been extended due to COVID-19.

Alumni Support Network

Each year, the CLS Program invites alumni from all years to participate in the Alumni Support Network to provide additional support to students preparing for their summers on the program. The Alumni Support Network (ASN) consists of two components: Alumni Resource Directories, which are organized by language and provide contact information and topics of conversation and are distributed to finalists and the alumni who have opted in to appears in the Directories; and a one-to-one mentoring program, which pairs finalists who request an individual mentor with an alumnx.

Despite the suspension of summer language institutes for 2020, the Alumni Support Network will continue to serve the function of connecting the CLS alumni community, pivoting the Resource Directories to share information of interest to alumni rather than finalists. For those who have opted in, Resource Directories will be distributed in mid-April. Advice provided by alumni for finalists will be compiled into topical and general pre-departure guides to be shared with future CLS scholars.

Alumni Activities

Kayla Nakeeb (Portuguese 2019) donating 120 pounds of Portuguese language books to the Framingham Public Library

Kayla Nakeeb (Portuguese 2019) donated 120 pounds of books brought back from her summer on the CLS Portuguese program in Florianopolis, Brazil to her local public library in Framingham, MA, which has the largest Brazilian community in the U.S. The idea to donate library books in Framingham came to Kayla while on the CLS Program, when she considered what it must be like for children to grow up not having access to reading materials in the languages they speak at home and, remembering how reading with her parents positively impacted her upbringing. Kayla wrote, “everyone deserves a chance to share stories with those that they love in languages that make sense to them.” As a result, Kayla worked with her language partner while in Brazil to ask for donations from the Florianopolis Public Library, which she brought home to her community in Massachusetts.

Milena Djordjevic-Kisacanin (Persian 2019) with Congressman Van Taylor (TX-03)

Following the Alumni Ambassador Forum, several alumni took the opportunity while in D.C. to visit with their U.S. Representatives’ offices. Alumni visited with representatives and their staff from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Of his visit with Congressman Rutherford (FL-04), Kian Thomas (Japanese 2019) said, “We shared stories of how study abroad has impacted our respective lives and had a fruitful conversation.” Alumni Ambassadors enjoyed the opportunity to thank their representatives for their continued support of international exchange and to talk about how it benefits their constituents.

Qimmah Najeullah (Arabic 2015) served as a panelist for the session, “Study Abroad and International Education as a Path to Service, Policy, and Practice” at the Department of State 11th Annual HBCU Foreign Policy Conference. She shared information about the student experience overseas and how she has taken that experience with her into her career as the Director of the Office of International Student and Faculty Services at Morgan State University.

Alumni in the News

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

Mahli Knutson (Chinese 2017, Japanese 2018) co-authored an article in the British Library Blog, following a semester at the University of Oxford where she used her Japanese in research looking into an artifact recently acquired by the Library.

Daniel Lang (Chinese 2018) was interviewed for the Lingors Podcast, which is focused on language learning and geared toward English language learners. As a former English teaching Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia, Daniel discussed how important it is to not be afraid to make mistakes when learning a new language.

Michael Mauer (Japanese 2016) was profiled by Lead with Languages, where he discussed using his Japanese language skills in his career as a software consultant at Ab Initio Software. He currently works in the company’s Tokyo office, where he was transferred when a need arose for more Japanese speakers.

Abrita Kuthumi (Korean 2018, 2019) wrote an article about her experience as a two-time participant of the CLS Program for the University of New Hampshire student newspaper. In the article, she discussed how participating on the program in South Korea contributed to her identity development as a Nepalese-American student writing, “If I had not studied abroad, had not been challenged in these ways, I would not have been granted the opportunity to understand my identity better. With a new way of thinking, seeing, and responding, I can say that my life truly changed after my study abroad and it will never be the same, ever after.”

2019 Alumni Ambassador Camille Bismonte (Indonesian 2018) was profiled by her university, Georgetown University’s news for her experiences as a Critical Language Scholar and subsequently as a Boren Scholar.

Alumni Updates

Do you have 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)

We would particularly appreciate hearing any good news these days about how alumni are contributing to efforts to help their communities or connections from afar to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Those interested in hearing about how other exchange alumni are navigating this new reality are encouraged to tune into ECA Collaboratory’s podcast series, 22.33, Connecting Through Isolation.”

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

April 06, 2020