| by Jason Warburg

News Stories

Guererro, Alleia and Taylor Zerby
Alleia Guerrero MATLM ’23 in Osaka, Japan (left), and Taylor Kerby MPA ’22 during a cultural visit to a Chagga village near Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (right).

Two Middlebury Institute students have won highly competitive Critical Language Scholarships, awarded by the U.S. State Department.

Each year, the State Department awards the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to American students at U.S. colleges and universities, providing fully funded study abroad opportunities to study languages and cultures considered critical to U.S. national security and economic prosperity. This year, students from the Institute’s MPA in Social Change and Translation and Localization Management programs received scholarships.

Both are excited to enrich their understanding of other cultures.

“My goals are to have a deeper understanding of Japanese culture by living in Okayama and talking to as many locals as I can,” says Alleia Guerrero MATLM ’23. “I also hope to improve my Japanese language skills and overcome the intermediate plateau I feel I’ve been stuck in for the past year.”

Guerrero also expects that her CLS experience will advance her closer to her career goals. 

“I have been passionate about video games since I was two years old and I’m hoping to put my Japanese skills into use in the future when I begin working for a Japanese video game company.”


The MIIS fellowship team members were very helpful and supportive during the time of the application. Dr. David Wick was super kind and helped me formulate my essays, which I believe led me to be accepted into CLS.
— Alleia Guerrero MATLM ’23

Taylor Zerby MPA ’22 is aiming to achieve an intermediate level of proficiency in Swahili, which she has not previously studied.

 “I intend to build upon this foundation independently through private lessons and, hopefully, throughout my professional career in the region of Central and East Africa.”

Zerby hopes that her Swahili skills will be “particularly useful in areas where Swahili is used as a lingua franca, such as Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).” She is currently working as an international development fellow for Catholic Relief Services’ DRC Country Program. 

“While French and Lingala are the common languages spoken in Kinshasa, where I’m based, I anticipate my Swahili language skills will be useful while working on their development and emergency programs in the eastern regions of the DRC.”

Faculty and Staff Guidance and Support Was Invaluable

Both recipients also expressed gratitude for the guidance provided by Middlebury Institute faculty and staff. 

“The MIIS fellowship team members were very helpful and supportive during the time of the application,” says Guerrero. “Dr. David Wick was super kind and helped me formulate my essays, which I believe led me to be accepted.”

“Professor Wick and graduate assistant Helen Jiang MPA/MAIEM ’23 were both instrumental in my decision to apply for the CLS Swahili program,” says Zerby. “As a CLS alumna herself, Helen provided me with invaluable insights on how to write a compelling application. She edited my drafts and provided me with useful feedback, which ultimately led me to being selected.”

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.