| by Emily Cipriani

News Stories

Alan Sevin
Critical Language Scholarship recipients (top, L–R) Alan Sevin MAIEP ’23, Chise Kerns MPA/MAIEM ’23, Nicholas Garbacz MPA/MAIEM ’22, (bottom, L–R) Rachel Herring MAIEP ’23, Jordyn Dezago MPA/MAIEM ’23, and Alyssa Serrano MAIPD ’22

Nine Institute students have been chosen as recipients of the Critical Language Scholarship, a highly competitive award funded by the U.S. State Department.

Each year, the U.S. Department of State awards the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to American students at U.S. colleges and universities. The scholarships provide fully funded study abroad opportunities for students to study languages and cultures considered critical to U.S. national security and economic prosperity. This year, nine students from the Institute’s International Environmental Policy, International Policy and Development, and joint Public Administration/International Education Management programs received scholarships.

The scholarship recipients expressed excitement at the chance to expand their understanding of different cultures. “I intend to work internationally after graduation, and I feel it is a necessary skill set to be able to speak with foreign partners in their native language,” says Rachel Herring MAIEP ’23, who will study Japanese this summer. “Japan and the United States have a deep relationship that is especially important to maintain with current climate partnerships, and speaking the language will allow me to use my degree in an international setting.”

“Professionally and academically, I have focused on learning to support indigenous peoples and their cultures and languages,” said Nicholas Garbacz MPA/MAIEM ’22, who will study Indonesian. “The summer CLS program comes at an ideal time for me to continue learning while building my personal and professional network!” 

The scholarship will help students expand their professional careers in their desired locales. Alyssa Serrano MAIPD ’22 received the Critical Language Scholarship last year to study Farsi, which she then used in a job at the International Rescue Committee as a quality control manager working with refugees from Afghanistan on Operation Allies Welcome. Serrano will study Farsi again through a Critical Language Scholarship this year. Chise Kerns MPA/MAIEM ’23 hopes to build her Chinese skills through the scholarship in order to strengthen educational programs between the U.S. and the Chinese speaking world.

The recipients also expressed gratitude for the guidance provided by Middlebury Institute professors and programs. “I chose to pursue Mandarin [Chinese] language at MIIS because I knew I would gain advanced language skills that I could apply in my professional career,” says Jordyn Dezago MPA/MAIEM ’23, who will study Chinese at the College of Humanities and Sciences of Northeast Normal University in Changchun, China. “I am very grateful for the MIIS fellowships coordinator, Kirsten Nicholas, and Dr. David Wick for their guidance throughout the application process, as well as Dr. Qi Wang for her support with my CLS application and my language studies.” 

Owen MkNelly MAIPD ’22 also expressed thanks to Dr. Qi Wang for providing “excellent advice.” MkNelly also plans to use the scholarship to study Chinese and is currently using his Institute specialization in Financial Crime Management to intern for the Department of Homeland Security Trade Transparency Unit.

Alan Sevin MAIEP ’23 will use the scholarship to study Arabic—specifically, a mix of Modern Standard Arabic and Jordanian dialect (Shami)—at Jordan Language Academy in Amman. “This scholarship means a lot to me,” Sevin commented. “I have studied Arabic for over eight years now, including full time as a [Defense Language Institute] student, but have never gotten to visit the Middle East or any other predominantly Arabic-speaking country. Studying again at MIIS has reinvigorated my love of the language and culture, and I can’t wait to be able to experience it in this setting. The workshop offered by Kirsten Nicholas and David Wick at MIIS was extremely helpful, and without that being offered I likely would never have applied. Since being accepted, I have put a focus on Jordan for several of my assignments, including a conservation assessment for a wildlife reserve I plan to visit while I’m there and hopefully discuss the assessment with them!”

The Critical Language Scholarship program includes eight to ten weeks of intensive language instruction and cultural enrichment activities. The scholarship programs partner with local institutions in countries where the language is spoken.