Critical Language Scholarship Program | 2021 Alumni Ambassador Year…

2021 Alumni Ambassador Year in Review

In a second year with challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Alumni Ambassadors brought enthusiasm, expertise, and generosity of time to their roles supporting the CLS Program and promoting language study in their communities. We are always grateful to Alumni Ambassadors for their commitment to the program and enjoy preparing this overview of accomplishments at the end of each year.


In January, sixteen new alumni of the 2020 program became new Alumni Ambassadors, joining seventeen Senior Alumni Ambassadors, alumni of the 2019 program remaining in their roles for a second year, making 2021 the largest ever cohort of Alumni Ambassadors. Including alumni from both 2019 and 2020 allowed for representation from those who had participated on the program pre-pandemic and those who had participated virtually. Together, these 33 Alumni Ambassadors represented fourteen languages and nineteen CLS Program sites. They came from nineteen U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Together, they attended 45 different U.S. higher education institutions, including eleven minority-serving institutions and five community colleges.

In early February, Alumni Ambassadors joined the CLS Alumni Engagement Officer for an introductory meeting to get to know each other and hear more about their roles for the year.

In early March, eight of the new Alumni Ambassadors served as panelists to discuss their experiences in the 2020 CLS Virtual Institutes in an event

Alumni Ambassadors speak to finalists and alternates about their experiences in the 2020 Virtual Institutes.

for finalists and alternates of the 2021 program. 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 an intensive experience that exceeded their expectations. Over 200 finalists and alternates attended the session and over 140 questions were submitted for the Alumni Ambassadors.


Several alumni, including Alumni Ambassadors Sofia Velasquez (Turkish 2019) and Max Courval (Portuguese 2020, 2021) served as a 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.

During the last week of March, the 2021 Alumni Ambassadors gathered virtually for the 11th annual Alumni Ambassador Forum, to engage in professional development and training. Alumni Ambassadors networked with CLS Program staff, representatives of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and each other during the event. They learned key components of serving as representatives of the program and enjoyed hands-on workshops on topics such as public speaking, event planning, and sharing the impact of the program with elected representatives.

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.

Tima Dasouki (Turkish 2020) gave a presentation about the CLS Program on April 2 to students from her high school, encouraging them to consider language study and study abroad early.

Kian Thomas (Japanese 2019) continued to organize weekly language tables for a variety of CLS languages, an initiative he started in 2020. Kian worked with other CLS alumni to host virtual language meetups, expanding the reach beyond CLS alumni to language speakers across the U.S.

In late May, Tima Dasouki (Turkish 2020) was featured on the Boston University Career Podcast talking about her studies and research in Middle East relations and migrant flow as well as her experience as Operations Manager at Urban Refuge, where she launched the #IAmMore project to tell the stories of immigrants and refugees.

Several Alumni Ambassadors shared their experiences with new students during the pre-program orientations in June. Abiodun Adeoye (Swahili 2020), Maya Best (Bangla 2020), Max Courval (Portuguese 2020), Tima Dasouki (Turkish 2020), Liz George (Hindi 2020), Ramil Mercado (Indonesian 2020), Preston Semenuk (Chinese 2020), Patrick Thompson (Chinese 2020), and Olivia Truesdale (Korean 2020) spoke at the orientations for their respective language institutes.


During the summer 2021 CLS Program, Alumni Ambassadors facilitated a series of affinity groups to build community among CLS virtual scholars across languages. Groups met online weekly or bi-weekly through the course of the program. These affinity groups were very positively received and will continue to play a role in the Alumni Support Network in the coming years. These affinity groups consisted of:

  • A group for students identifying as Black, indigenous or persons of color (BIPOC students), led by Abiodun Adeoye (Swahili 2020), Eileen Calub (Turkish 2020), and Ramil Mercado (Indonesian 2020, 2021)
  • A group for first-generation students led by Abiodun Adeoyoe (Swahili 2020), Tima Dasouki (Turkish 2020, 2021), Luana Davila (Arabic 2019), and Ramil Mercado (Indonesian 2020, 2021)
  • A group for heritage speakers led by Maya Best (Bangla 2020) and Liz George (Hindi 2020)
  • A group for students identifying as LGBTQIA+ led by Abiodun Adeoye (Swahili 2020), Max Courval (Portuguese 2020, 2021), and Ramil Mercado (Indonesian 2020, 2021)
  • A group for students to talk about the intersection of music and culture led by Nikidrea Rey (Russian 2019), Clara Sherwood (Arabic 2020), and Olivia Truesdale (Korean 2020, 2021)
  • A group for students with disabilities and/or chronic illness led by Abigail Hawkins (Arabic 2020, 2021)

In late July, Preston Semenuk (Chinese 2020), a returning participant of the 2021 Chinese program, organized a series of virtual meetups for his fellow CLS Chinese scholars in order to practice language in a casual environment.


With the application for the 2022 CLS Program open from early October to mid-November, Alumni Ambassadors engaged in a variety of virtual outreach to and support of prospective applicants. The application window this year was shorter than usual, and Alumni Ambassadors were particularly busy supporting the CLS Program with recruitment.

Imani Everett (Korean 2020) speaks to students at Virginia Commonwealth University about the CLS Program

Alumni Ambassadors worked with CLS staff to enrich the following recruitment activities:

  • Throughout October and early November, Alumni Ambassadors joined various CLS staff members on virtual general information sessions about the CLS Program. Abiodun Adeoye (Swahili 2020), Max Courval (Portuguese 2020, 2021), Tima Dasouki (Turkish 2020, 2021), Imani Everett (Korean 2020), Abigail Hawkins (Arabic 2020, 2021), Conor McMahon (Chinese 2020, 2021), Ramil Mercado (Indonesian 2020, 2021), and Olivia Truesdale (Korean 2020, 2021) all told their stories and gave advice to applicants during these general information sessions.
  • In addition to the general information sessions, Clara Sherwood (Arabic 2020) and Tima Dasouki (Turkish 2020, 2021) spoke at information sessions specifically for students applying at a beginner language level.
  • Alumni Ambassadors also supported language-specific information sessions with CLS staff. Abiodun Adeoye (Swahili 2020), Abigail Hawkins (Arabic 2020, 2021), Liz George (Hindi 2020), Shabbir Abbas (Persian 2020), Ramil Mercado (Indonesian 2020, 2021), Patrick Thompson (Chinese 2020, 2021), Preston Semenuk (Chinese 2020, 2021), Imani Everett (Korean 2020), Ramisa Murshed (Korean 2019), Chelsea Cervantes de Blois (Azerbaijani 2019), Max Courval (Portuguese 2020, 2021), Anabel Reyes-Ovalles (Portuguese 2019) spoke at the information sessions that corresponded with their CLS languages.
  • The CLS Program organized several virtual Q&A Office Hours for applicants to ask questions of staff and alumni. Abiodun Adeoye (Swahili 2020), Monique Bowie (Turkish 2019), Abigail Hawkins (Arabic 2020, 2021), Conor McMahon (Chinese 2019, 2021), Ramil Mercado (Indonesian 2020, 2021), Patrick Thompson (Chinese 2020, 2021), and Olivia Truesdale (Korean 2020, 2021) supported various of these office hours, ensuring there was always an alumnus/a there to provide valuable perspective to applicants.
  • Abigail Hawkins (Arabic 2020, 2021) joined two other CLS alumni on a panel moderated by CLS staff members to discuss their experiences as students with disabilities and chronic illnesses studying abroad.
  • Max Courval (Portuguese 2020, 2021) and Ramil Mercado (Indonesian 2020, 2021) joined another CLS alumna on a panel moderated by CLS staff members to discuss their experiences studying abroad and on the virtual program as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Ramisa Murshed (Korean 2019) and Patrick Thompson (Chinese 2020, 2021) spoke on a panel moderated by CLS staff members about how they prepared successful applications for the CLS Program coming from fields of study that are underrepresented in intensive language programs.
  • Maya Best (Bangla 2020, 2021) joined Communications Officer Rori DiFiore for an Instagram Live chat and helped answer questions from the many viewers in attendance about the application process.
  • Abiodun Adeoye (Swahili 2020), Conor McMahon (Chinese 2019, 2021) joined CLS Program staff for information sessions organized with specific colleges and universities across the U.S.

Alumni Ambassadors also held and participated in independently organized recruitment activities including:

  • Olivia Truesdale (Korean 2020, 2021) and three other CLS alumni spoke at a virtual event for students at the Claremont Colleges in collaboration with the Assistant Director of Fellowships & Career Advising at Pomona College.
  • Imani Everett (Korean 2020) gave a presentation on CLS at the Korean Student Association General Body Meeting at Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Ramil Mercado (Indonesian 2020, 2021) gave an introduction to the CLS Program and spoke about the benefits of intensive language programs to a group of students and staff at a UC Berkeley virtual event hosted by Berkeley Study Abroad and the Berkeley Language Center.
  • Anabel Reyes-Ovalles (Portuguese 2019) and Nikidrea Rey (Russian 2019) volunteered to speak at a virtual event hosted by SUNY Albany, to promote the CLS Program and application.
  • Abiodun Adeoye (Swahili 2020), Monique Bowie (Turkish 2019), Eileen Calub (Turkish 2020), Chelsea Cervantes de Blois (Azerbaijani 2019), Liz George (Hindi 2020), and Abigail Hawkins (Arabic 2020, 2021) joined advisors at Miami Dade College for three virtual information sessions.
  • Max Courval gave a virtual information session on opportunities for those studying Portuguese, including the CLS Program, the Gilman Scholarship, and the FLAS Fellowship to students at Arizona State University.

Imani Everett (Korean 2020) attended the virtual Diversity Abroad Global Student Leadership Summit in November, where she attended panels and discussions about inclusion, identity, and diversity in study abroad and networked with students and professionals.

Abiodun Adeoye (Swahili 2020) and two other CLS alumni participated in the Youth Town Hall hosted by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield as part of the larger Summit for Democracy held by President Biden. They were three of the sixteen U.S. representatives to the town hall, among other young leaders from around the world.

Posted Date

January 12, 2022

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