Four Penn Staters receive U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship

May 24, 2016

This summer, three Penn State students and one alumnus will travel the globe as part of the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program.

Eden Kinkaid, Erika Pugh, Janet Purdy and David Stack are among the approximately 560 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students who received a CLS scholarship in 2016. Each will spend eight to 10 weeks receiving fully funded, group-based intensive language instruction and taking part in structured cultural enrichment experiences in one of 24 overseas locations.

The Critical Language Scholarship Program is part of a U.S. government effort to dramatically expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages, including Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu.

“These scholars have chosen to pursue rigorous linguistic and cultural immersion in areas where most U.S. students do not have access to deep learning,” said Tanya Furman, Associate Vice President and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Interim Director, University Fellowships Office.

The University Fellowships Office, a unit of Undergraduate Education, helps students navigate the nomination processes for competitive national and international fellowships, like the CLS program, and helps prepare them for written applications and oral interviews.

“We live in an increasingly global society, and the important issues of our day require rich understanding of diverse cultures that can be gained only through human interaction around themes such as history, art, and economics as these students will be doing,” continued Furman. “Their work enriches our nation, and helps develop a positive climate for understanding between cultures that is sorely needed today.”

CLS Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

Eden Kinkaid
Kinkaid, of Monclova, Ohio, is pursuing dual doctoral degrees at Penn State in geography and women's, gender, and sexuality studies. This summer she will be immersed in the Hindi language in Jaipur, India.

For the last few years, Kinkaid has been conducting fieldwork in rural India, studying issues related to agricultural development.

“Fluency in Hindi is integral to this process, as I am working in rural regions with farmers and other people who do not speak English,” said Kinkaid. “Improving my Hindi skills will aid in my dissertation, and allow me to engage Indian people and culture on an even deeper level.”

Erika Pugh
Pugh, of State College, Pennsylvania, is pursuing a bachelor of science in finance and a bachelor of arts in Russian at Penn State, having just completed her first year. She will study the Russian language while living with a host family in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and participate in cultural activities inside and outside the classroom, including an excursion to Moscow.

Pugh hopes to use the skills she gains over the summer in an international business career, building international relationships and further expanding America’s global business presence. “One day I ultimately want to work for an organization like American Councils that promotes cross-cultural dialogue and study abroad programs,” said Pugh.

Janet Purdy
Purdy, a native of Bay Village, Ohio, and State College, Pennsylvania, is a doctoral candidate in Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture, Department of Art History. She will travel to Arusha, Tanzania, where she will be immersed in the Swahili language, agreeing to speak only Swahili after the first week of the program, and traveling to national parks, game reserves, and open air markets to practice language skills in different situations.

Purdy said that the skills she’ll acquire over the summer will help tremendously with her dissertation research, studying the influences of foreign trade on the art and architecture of the region. “Because there are so many different languages spoken throughout the African continent, this chance to learn Swahili -- spoken by tens of millions of people in Eastern and Central regions -- is invaluable as an Africanist and scholar,” said Purdy.

David Stack
Stack, a native of Pittsburgh, graduated from Penn State this May with bachelor of arts degrees in economics, international politics, and Chinese in addition to being a Schreyer Honors Scholar. For his CLS experience, Stack will travel to Xi'an, China to study Mandarin Chinese and explore the Shaanxi province.

In March, Stack was honored with another major fellowship, being the first Penn State student to be named a Junior Fellow of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Stack has seven years of experience speaking Mandarin, and one day hopes to work as a diplomat for the U.S. government. “I hope to use my Mandarin skills to help ensure that the U.S.-China relationship is as beneficial to global security and prosperity as possible,” said Stack.

To learn more about the Critical Language Scholarship program, and other fellowship and grant opportunities available to students and alumni, visit the University Fellowships Office website or their office in 212 Boucke Building.

The University Fellowships Office is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

Last Updated May 26, 2016