VERMILLION, S.D. -- Two students from The University of South Dakota were awarded Critical Language Scholarships for Intensive Summer Institutes by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and The Council of American Overseas Research Centers.
Jonathon Walz, a senior from Huron, S.D., and Patrick Geary, a junior from Sheridan, Wyo., will study Arabic through this program, which allocates funding for students to participate in beginning, intermediate and advanced level summer language programs. Scholarship recipients are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period and later apply their critical language skills in their professional careers. This is the second consecutive year that Walz has been awarded a Critical Language Scholarship. He will study advanced Arabic while Geary will learn introductory Arabic. Both students are members of USD’s University Honors Program.
"Over the past few years, I have developed an interest in Middle Eastern politics," explained Walz, who will begin a master’s degree program in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin next year. "I am excited that I have the opportunity to spend the summer brushing-up on my language skills so that I am better prepared to start my graduate studies in the fall."
Walz, a double major in economics and political science at The U, began studying Arabic on campus and continued his studies in Cairo, Egypt after he was awarded David L. Boren Scholarships in 2005 and 2006. The son of Doug and Mary Walz of Huron will travel to Salalah, Oman next month after spending last summer in Sana’a, Yemen studying advanced Arabic.
"The USD community has been an amazing resource in helping me achieve my academic goals," said Walz, who has been active in several campus organizations, including president of the Political Science League, a member of Phi Delta Theta, Student Ambassadors, Model United Nations and Americans for Informed Democracy. He was also the student liaison to the Vermillion City Council and a member of the 2004 Dakota Days Committee. "What truly sets The U apart is its people. Were it not for the continual support and assistance of the faculty and staff, my college career would have been much less rewarding."
Although his experience with Arabic is very limited, Geary’s passion for Middle Eastern politics is unlimited as he plans to pursue graduate studies focusing on the history and politics of the Middle East. The son of Tim and Rita Geary of Sheridan, Wyo., will study Arabic in Tunisia following orientation in Washington, D.C.
"It has become apparent that people with knowledge of the Arabic language will be needed by the United States government for roles in the diplomatic and intelligence communities," stated Geary. "I felt that this program would be an ideal first step into my studies of the Arabic language, and that it would serve as a bridge to my graduate studies."
Geary, a history and political science major, credits Eric Jepsen, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science, and Clayton Lehmann, Ph.D., professor of history, for their support and advice during his time as a student at USD. They also recommended Geary for the scholarship.
"I feel like USD has given me an opportunity for the sort of one-on-one interaction with professors that really makes the whole experience feel like education and not like an assembly line," added Geary, who will graduate from USD in May 2009. "I graduated from a high school class of 18, so I was really used to knowing my teachers and being known by them. My experience has been that USD has much of the same tight-knit feel."
Sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and administered by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, the Critical Language Scholarships Program was launched in 2006. In its inaugural year, the program offered intensive overseas study in the critical need foreign languages of Arabic, Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu. In 2007, Chinese, Korean, Persian and Russian institutes were added along with increased student capacity in the inaugural language institutes. All program costs are covered for participants. This includes travel between the student's home city and program location, pre-departure orientation costs, applicable visa fees, room, board, travel within country and all entrance fees for program activities. For more information, visit www.clscholarship.org/home.php.