Critical Language Scholarship Program | CLS Alumni News

CLS Alumni News

Summer 2020

The CLS Program was pleased to announce in late May CLS Virtual Institutes for summer 2020. Due to reduced capacity for this new type of programming, CLS Virtual Institutes are providing remote language instruction and cultural learning for a limited number of students in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, and Russian. We look forward to welcoming the CLS Virtual Institutes participants as new CLS alumni at the end of the summer.

2019 Long-Term Impact Survey Results

Every three years, the CLS Program conducts a long-term impact survey, inviting all alumni of the program to share the impacts that participation has had on their personal, academic, and professional lives thus far. Thank you to all of the alumni who took part in this survey—we are so impressed by everything that you accomplish, and your participation helps us to tell your story and highlight the value of language education! 

CLS Japanese students at Mt. Ibuki. Photo by Angelo Perez (Japanese 2017)

In fall 2019, 1,129 alumni representing all program years and languages completed the survey, representing over 300 higher education institutions and 63 CLS Program sites in 21 different countries.

42% of employed CLS alumni are using their CLS languages in their current jobs, and 69% are using knowledge of their CLS host country in their work. 95% of alumni said that participation in the CLS Program had influenced their career goals. 82% said that their language skills made them more competitive candidates for their jobs and 95% of reported that their intercultural communication skills made them more competitive.

The majority of alumni (83%) reported that they had continued to study their CLS languages after completing the program. In addition, 79% of alumni reported using their CLS languages in professional, academic, social, or entertainment activities in the last year.

In addition, 90% of respondents reported that participation in the CLS Program impacted their lives outside of academics and career, citing examples of personal growth and development, expanded worldviews, and relationships formed. 84% of respondents reported that they kept in touch with other participants from their cohorts. The CLS Program has resulted in several marriages and many alumni reported raising children bilingually.

Alumni Supporting Their Communities in the Pandemic

Over the past few months, we’ve heard stories of CLS alumni whose work or volunteering has supported their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re proud of our alumni and the many ways they give their time and expertise to help others. Several of these stories have been highlighted on CLS social media and a few are summarized below.

Harry Leeds (Russian 2012) is a Master of Science in Nursing student at the University of Minnesota. Once his clinical rotations were moved online, he began volunteering at Open Arms of Minnesota, a nonprofit that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities. 

Wendy van Giezen (Chinese 2017, 2018)

Wendy van Giezen (Chinese 2017, 2018) is a nurse in New York City. Wendy began working with Vault Health to instruct and supervise patients taking at-home coronavirus tests, lending her medical expertise to help make testing more accessible.

Theo Goetemann (Korean 2017) is the founder of Basil Labs, a consumer intelligence startup in Washington, D.C., which launched a web tool called the COVID-19 Testing Locator. This tool lets users find the nearest testing locations for the virus, with filters to indicate whether sites require a doctor’s order or are drive-through accessible.

Kayla Nakeeb (Portuguese 2019) and another volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry

Kayla Nakeeb (Portuguese 2019) has been volunteering four days a week at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in Indianapolis, IN. Amidst school closures, high rates of unemployment, and heightened health risks, many Indiana residents have been relying on food banks and food pantries for much-needed support. Kayla has been working alongside other volunteers and three National Guard teams to support receiving and distribution of food donations.

Hannah Gaber (Arabic 2016) works for USA Today in D.C., where she and her team have become inventive in their coverage strategies to maintain health and safety of everyone involved during the pandemic. Her work includes highlighting the struggles and successes of single parents as part of the Coronavirus Chronicles series.

Alumni Activities, Awards, and Honors

In mid-April, two CLS alumni were selected as Truman Scholars: Abrita Kuthumi (Korean 2018, 2019) and Anna Landre (Portuguese 2019). Abrita and Anna are two of 62 outstanding college students selected from 773 applicants for the 2020 Truman Scholar program. Truman Scholars are nominated by

their institutions based on leadership, public service, and academic achievement and are supported by the fellowship to pursue careers in public service.

In mid-June, Alumni Ambassador Kian Thomas (Japanese 2019) began organizing a series of virtual “language tables” as a space for practice for CLS alumni and other language students in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Persian, and Portuguese, Spanish, and Urdu. Kian continues to offer these language tables on a weekly basis, which can be found on his page Kian’s Weekly Language Tables

Two CLS alumni, Mitchell Bacci (Turkish 2015) and Elizabeth Cecil (Hindi 2013) have been awarded 2020 CAORC Fellowships. Mitchell Bacci, a doctoral candidate in history and Middle Eastern studies at Harvard University, is a recipient of a Multi-Country Research Fellowship. His dissertation examines the transformation of the Eastern Mediterranean region between the late Ottoman period and the interwar era through the lens of the opiate trade. The CAORC fellowship will support his research in Egypt and Turkey. Elizabeth Cecil, Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Florida State University, is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Research Fellowship, which will support her research in Cambodia. Her research focuses on how early Hindu art and architecture were defined by and sought to define the geographies of Southeast Asia. 

Victoria Vardanega (Korean 2015) was awarded a Rosenthal Fellowship, which supports her work for the summer of 2020 in the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking within the Bureau of International Labor Affairs.

Alumni in the News

Amani Core (Chinese 2016)

Amani Core (Chinese 2016) teaches Chinese at the high school level and has developed resources to facilitate discussions about race and social justice among students in their target language, empowering them to think about how they can make a difference. His work was featured in an article on AllSet Learning, where you can read more about the project. Amani says of the project, “I hope that this particular initiative can help centralize Black voices in Chinese-specific curricula and contexts, a task that can be challenging given the vastly different realities of race in America and Chinese-speaking regions. This blog is hopefully the first of many on how to discuss, lesson plan, and teach Chinese students about these complex issues of race in America, focusing on narratives within the Black Lives Matter movement. I am excited to continue working on this project, but I also believe we should all find unique ways to use our strengths to make a change through social activism, showing up where we can.”

Rhys Leahy (Persian 2014) was featured in a New York Times article for her research on the vaccine-related misinformation war and how it affects COVID-19. Rhys is a researcher at George Washington University, where she and colleagues have conducted a study mapping the vaccine conversation on Facebook during the 2019 measles outbreak and have been discussing its generalization to the current pandemic situation.

Benjamin Becker (Indonesian 2012) was featured in Nieman Reports for his journalism work as an Abrams Nieman Fellow, for which he is traveling in his home state of Kentucky interviewing Appalachian residents there about their experiences. Late in the spring, his work was highlighted in an article by West Virginia Public Broadcasting entitled, “7 Stories of Growing Up Black in Appalachia” for his work in telling the story of Derek Akal, who was born and raised in Harlan County, KY.

Alumni Ambassador Conor McMahon (Chinese 2019) was featured in a “Where Are They Now” series by his alma mater, the University of Buffalo. He spoke in the interview about his experience on the CLS Program, highlighting the immersion experience of living with a host family, and sharing that, of all of the language programs he has participated in, “CLS has been by far the most organized and it pushed me the furthest. If you want to take a step forward in language study, there’s no better way to do it.”

Ryan Mills (Chinese 2019) wrote an article about his experience on the CLS Program in Dalian, China. In the article, Ryan wrote, “The Critical Language Scholarship Program is the best cultural immersion language program on the market but it’s not for sale, it is something I earned. Thanks to CLS, I enhanced all aspects of my Chinese language abilities.” Of his cohort, he shared, “The greatest gift the Critical Language Scholarship gave me is the friendships and connections within my cohort. My 2019 CLS Dalian cohort came from all part of the United States, multi-disciplinary academic and professional backgrounds, and were all unique in their own ways.”

Send Us Your 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)

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

July 01, 2020