Critical Language Scholarship Program | CLS Alumni Awarded Pickering,…

CLS Alumni Awarded Pickering, Rangel and Payne Fellowships

The CLS Program is delighted to recognize alumni who recently received prestigious awards to further their careers in the public service through the Thomas R Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, the USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship, and the Charles B. Rangel International Fellowship programs. The Pickering, Payne, and Rangel are funded by the U.S. Department of State and provide financial support and professional development opportunities for outstanding students interested in pursuing careers in the U.S. Foreign Service. 

Nikidrea Rey (Russian 2019), Muna Sultana (Arabic 2022), and Michael Ball (Arabic 2021) are taking a big step in their careers in public diplomacy through Pickering this fall. The Pickering Fellowship, administered by Howard University, funds two-year graduate programs, offers two summer internships, and provides mentorship to fellows on their path to becoming foreign service officers. 

For Nikidrea, CLS was formative in showing what was possible in a career in international affairs. “CLS was an essential bridge. It taught me the value of engagement with different people, languages, and cultures beyond what textbooks can teach or classrooms can emulate. CLS revealed to me the value of a human-centric approach.”

Nikidrea Rey participated in the 2019 CLS Russian Program and is a 2024 Pickering Fellow.

For the past few years, Nikidrea has had a rewarding career as a Foreign Affairs Specialist within the Department of Defense and is elated to continue her global education as a 2024 Pickering Fellow and incoming student at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. “Through research and foreign service, I hope to take the lessons I’ve learned and shape the way we conduct and implement cooperation initiatives,” said Nikidrea.

Muna Sultana is a 2022 CLS Arabic Program alumna and a 2024 Pickering Fellow.

For Muna Sultana, a love of learning about different languages and cultures played an important role in her desire to work in diplomacy. “When my college no longer offered Arabic courses, I decided to apply to CLS to continue my learning outside of the classroom before studying abroad in Jordan. Learning Arabic sparked a curiosity within me to travel the world and use my language skills to further diplomatic efforts. I am excited to continue my journey learning languages as a Foreign Service Officer through the Pickering Fellowship,” shared Muna Sultana. We congratulate Nikidrea, Muna, and Michael on this impressive accomplishment.  

2022 CLS Arabic alumna and 2023 Alumni Ambassador Maeve Knepper was selected among thirty students nationwide for the Payne Graduate Fellowship. The Payne provides $100,000 in benefits across the span of two years in the form of graduate school, internships, and professional development activities. Following completion of graduate study, fellows become Foreign Service Officers with USAID. Maeve is currently abroad in Oman and continuing to grow her Arabic language skills through the Boren Awards. You can read more about Maeve and her CLS experience on her alumni ambassador profile. 

Eight CLS alumni have been selected to receive the 2024 Rangel Fellowship: Jaime Cantwell (Indonesian 2020, 2021) Daniel Castro Bonilla (Chinese 2017) Justin Frigault (Russian 2022) Manon Fuchs (Russian 2023) Kate Jasenski (Chinese 2021) Amarpreet Kaur (Punjabi 2022) Mariam Malik (Arabic 2021) Vanessa Rice (Turkish 2022, 2023). Last year, CLS alumni were also well-represented in the 2023 Rangel cohort: Douglas Andreasen (Indonesian 2022), Veronica Pacheco (Korean 2018), Mushfequr Rahman (Urdu 2021), Vanessa Rogers-Wright (2021 Korean), and Abdul Sanderson (Russian 2021). Through the Rangel Fellowship, fellows receive two years of funded graduate study at an approved institution of their choice, internship opportunities, mentoring and other professional development activities. 

The CLS Program team congratulates these alumni on their outstanding accomplishments and looks forward to seeing them continue to flourish as they pursue careers in public diplomacy. Read more about CLS alumni who have pursued prestigious awards in CLS Alumni Selected for Rhodes and Marshall and CLS Alumni Named Schwarzman Scholars. CLS Alumni—we want to hear about your accomplishments (whether specific to your career or life in general!). Share with us your good news at

Posted Date

May 03, 2024

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