Critical Language Scholarship Program | CLS Alumni News

CLS Alumni News

Spring 2021

The busy spring season is in full swing at CLS, where finalists and alternates for the 2021 CLS Program were announced in March. Due to the current health and safety situation, the majority of CLS institutes for summer 2021 will be offered as virtual programs. Virtual institutes in 2020 resulted in impressive language gains among our scholars.

We wish everyone the best as they prepare for the summer and look forward to welcoming them into the alumni community in September.

Join the 2021 Alumni Support Network

Each year as finalists prepare for summer on the program, CLS distributes Alumni Resource Directories so that they may contact alumni for questions and advice. Although most students this year will be participating virtually, these directories still serve as an important resource for scholars who wish to engage with others who share a commitment to studying critical languages. Alumni are also encouraged to connect with each other through the directories. All CLS alumni are invited to participate in the 2021 Alumni Resource Directories by completing this survey.

Introducing the 2021 Alumni Ambassadors

In January, sixteen new alumni of the 2020 Critical Language Scholarship Virtual Institutes were selected to become 2021 Alumni Ambassadors. They join seventeen Senior Alumni Ambassadors, alumni of the 2019 program who have already served in the volunteer role for 2020 and were invited to stay on for another year. Together they represent a diverse group of CLS alumni who have participated in both the in-person and virtual programs, representing fourteen languages and nineteen CLS Program sites. They come from nineteen U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Together, they have attended 45 different U.S. higher education institutions, including eleven minority-serving institutions and five community colleges. Alumni Ambassadors participate in professional development, alumni community networking, supporting finalists, program outreach, and other activities throughout the year. Stay tuned to the CLS website and social media in the coming weeks as we publish and share profiles on each new Alumni Ambassador.

Alumni Ambassadors convened virtually this spring for the annual Alumni Ambassador Forum, where they learned more about their roles with the CLS Program and built relationships with each other and CLS Program staff.

Wrapping Up Alumni Mentoring Circles

The CLS Program convened an inaugural series of Alumni Mentoring Circles, open to all alumni of the program, at the end of 2020. For three months, 67 groups of alumni met at least monthly to discuss a series of suggested topics related to their goals, careers, and integration of language into their lives. Groups of three to five alumni were curated based on academic and professional pursuits, mixing alumni of different languages and years. Upon evaluation of the program, alumni participants indicated that the mentoring circles provided them meaningful opportunities for reflection, networking, and connection with other alumni, which was particularly appreciated during a time when forming new connections and relationships is more difficult due to the pandemic. Survey respondents shared some of what made the mentoring circles particularly meaningful to them:

“We discussed our career goals, and what we hoped to accomplish. We gave each other advice and resources. We helped one of our group members to get a new position with AmeriCorps, which is a wonderful news for the whole group.”

“I liked hearing from others on how to maintain CLS language skills and it was helpful to talk about careers and how to bring in the CLS language and find jobs in our interest areas. We had helpful tips for each other!”

“I feel more connected to the CLS alumni network and like I have a few more options to consider going forward with my own personal and professional development.”

Stay tuned in early fall for an invitation to participate in the next series of Alumni Mentoring Circles.

Alumni Highlights

In late January, the CLS Alumni Society held another event in their series, “Around the World and Back Again,” with a focus on Critical Languages in Health Professions. The featured panelists were Christine Lam (Chinese 2014), a Physician Assistant; Bethany Taylor (Swahili 2019), a researcher and medical student; and Halina Shatravka (Russian 2017), a clinical research specialist. 

Alumni Ambassador Panel

On the evening of March 10, eight of the new Alumni Ambassadors participated in a panel for finalists and alternates of the 2021 CLS Program to discuss their experiences as participants of the 2020 CLS Virtual Institutes. Abiodun Adeoye (Swahili 2020), Maya Best (Bangla 2020), Tima Dasouki (Turkish 2020), Imani Everett (Korean 2020), Preston Semenuk (Chinese 2020), Clara Sherwood (Arabic 2020), Patrick Thompson (Chinese 2020), and Olivia Truesdale (Korean 2020) discussed the rewards and challenges of the program and how participating in CLS virtually was truly an intensive experience and exceeded their expectations, urging finalists to see the unique and meaningful qualities of the program. Over 200 finalists and alternates attended the session, which was hosted on Zoom and moderated by CLS Alumni Engagement Officer Liz Sinclair. Over 140 questions were submitted using the Q&A, many of which focused on the topics of how various aspects of the program worked in a virtual format, such as cultural activities, language partners, class time, time management, and dealing with Zoom fatigue.

In mid-March, several CLS alumni participated as panelists and coordinators of the We Represent 2021 conference, an event supported by the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund and geared toward students who are traditionally underrepresented in international exchange programs. Helen Jiang (Indonesian 2016) served on the conference team and Sheen Atwa (Arabic 2016, Swahili 2018), Camille Bismonte (Indonesian 2018), Cheyenne Boyce (Indonesian 2017), Eileen Calub (Turkish 2020), Max Courval (Portuguese 2020), Alexandra Dionisi (Indonesian 2020), Annisah Smith (Indonesian 2015, 2016), and Sofia Velasquez (Turkish 2019) shared their expertise as panelists on a variety of sessions. 

In the fall of 2020, CLS alumnus Gabriel Davis (Arabic 2019) initiated development of an organization that would provide opportunities for alumni of exchange programs and others who had lived abroad a place to write and otherwise share creatively about their international experiences. He and several other exchange alumni, including CLS alumni Abby Baggini (Arabic 2019), Hannah Cole (Korean 2018), Alex Duff (Chinese 2018), Daniel Lang (Chinese 2018) Gabriel Newman (Chinese 2018), Victoria Nwankudu (Arabic 2019), Tatum Rae (Chinese 2018), Mei Roen (Chinese 2018), and Petie Schill (Swahili 2020) launched the Overseas Dispatch, which seeks to provide editorial and advisory services to writers, a magazine, and a searchable database, helping other alumni to navigate the process of publishing. Alumni are invited to get involved and learn more at

Camille Bismonte’s (Indonesian 2018) organization, Global Community College Transfers (GCCT), which she launched in 2020 along with several other exchange alumni colleagues, began a new initiative to pair community college and transfer students with mentors from the professional world. GCCT is an organization dedicated to closing “the knowledge barrier to global education opportunities for community college students and those at underserved public institutions.” CLS Alumni interested in becoming mentors can sign up via the interest form by April 20.

Throughout March, the CLS Alumni Society held a series of events on a variety of topics. Early in the month, they held a CLSAS Board Forum to talk with interested alumni about upcoming Leadership Board elections and ways to get involved in the organization. Mid-month they hosted “Introduction to Careers in International Affairs” and “Best Practices in Applying for Graduate School,” in collaboration with APSIA as well as “Podcasting & the Art of Storytelling” with a panel of experienced podcasters and storytellers including the co-hosts of the CLSAS “What Do We Call This?” podcast, Miriam Tinberg (Arabic 2012) and Ashley Rivenbark (Chinese 2014). They also offered 90-minute workshops with career coaches throughout the month. On the evening of March 22, CLSAS and CLS staff at American Councils co-hosted a town hall event on race, diversity, and study abroad for CLS alumni to facilitate a dialogue on how CLS serves and represents the diversity of the United States. Their March events culminated with a virtual career fair and happy hour on March 29.

Awards and Honors

Kate Knight and Emily Wood

CLS Program alumnae Kate Knight (Arabic 2019) and Emily Wood (Indonesian 2018) were two of the fifteen individuals selected from over 650 applicants for the 2021 Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship Program. Kate is a graduate of Rollins College, where she studied international relations with a regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa. With her graduate work supported by the Payne Fellowship, Kate plans to study education as a mitigating factor for social and economic inequalities that often result from conflict. Emily, a former CLS Alumni Ambassador, is a graduate of the University of Wyoming, where she studied international studies and German. She is a native CHamoru in the diaspora and is dedicated to indigenous rights and cultural and linguistic conservation. She hopes to work with indigenous communities, helping them regain their self-reliance after centuries of marginalization.

Gabriela Rosa Hernandez (Russian 2018, 2019) has been awarded an Alfa Fellowship, which will support her intensive Russian language study and professional development in Moscow.

Senior Alumni Ambassador Ramisa Murshed (Korean 2019) and her teammate Laura Marin-López were selected as finalists in the College + Twitch Creative Jam with Adobe XD, an international design competition with over 400 teams across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. They were chosen as one of the top ten teams, invited to present their project during a finale event which took place on March 31. They developed their project, “Inspire,” to be a hub where users can find information in multiple formats on whatever topic they hope to learn about in addition to connecting them to others who share their interests.

Alumni in the News

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

Andrea Howard (Azerbaijani 2015) was featured in the 2021 Marshall Scholarship Impact Report , which can be read via this link. Andrea discussed her experience with us in an interview in early 2020, which can be read here.

Bianca Abbate (Russian 2019) was highlighted by her institution, La Salle University, for her participation in CLS and how it supports her plans to pursue a career in international law and diplomacy. Bianca was the first student from La Salle University to be selected as a CLS finalist.

Send Us Your Updates

Do you have updates 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

April 12, 2021