Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship Awards Announced
Author: Tam Rankin, Middle East Studies Center
Posted: March 26, 2013

The Middle East Studies Center and the Department of World Languages and Literatures announce Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship awards.

FLAS fellowships are available to students in any department who are pursuing a course of study which requires advanced foreign language and area studies training and who plan to use the training and language skills for graduate study or a career in an international field. Fellows must be enrolled full-time at Portland State University as degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate students. Priority is given to students who have strong academic records in their major and their language area of study. Fellowships provide support for tuition and a stipend for living expenses.

Congratulations to the following fellowship recipients!

Academic Year 2013-14

Cody French (Arabic), Karen Lickteig, (Arabic), Nathan Jons (Persian), Laila Taraghi (Arabic), Seth Thomas (Arabic), and Ahmed Zuhairy (Arabic)

Summer 2013

Cody French (Arabic), Touraj Houshmand-Shafii (Turkish), Karen Lickteig (Arabic), Jonathan Vance (Persian), and Ahmed Zuhairy (Arabic)


Cody French is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Arabic Studies at Portland State, with next year being his final year of undergrad (insha’allah!) In addition to Arabic, he has studied French and Spanish, and enjoys learning about the histories and “geographies” of languages. He is planning to travel abroad this summer to finally experience the region, hopefully visiting a few different countries. His linguistic pursuits often tussle for attention with making, playing, and recording music with his best friends.

Initially an EE major, Touraj Houshmand-Shafii found greater passion in pursuing an academic path that he feels is essential in today’s larger global context.  His fields of study at PSU include an International Studies – Middle East major, with minors in Persian, International Studies – Africa, and Black Studies.  Receiving FLAS fellowships for summer intensive language study continues to bring him closer to achieving fluency in Persian through participation at the Arabic, Persian, Turkish Language Immersion Institute at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Touraj completed the intermediate program in 2011 and will be returning for the advanced program this summer.  Other awards, including the Damis, Ducey, and Leiser Scholarships for Middle East Studies/Middle East Languages as well as the Persia House Scholarship for study of Persian, have been instrumental in furthering Touraj’s passion for languages, which includes his past study of French and Spanish, as well as upcoming study of Turkish beginning in fall 2012.  His future plans include studying abroad, additional language acquisition and graduate/doctoral programs in the areas of international relations/affairs, conflict and terrorism studies, and peace operations/studies.  He believes this track will offer the greatest possibility of working in a field that enables him to interact with and help people in a more direct and profound way.  His other interests on campus include involvement with the Arab Persian Student Organization, assisting others in their academic pursuits through employ with PSU’s Disability Resource Center, and induction into the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi this term.  Outside of academics, Touraj enjoys spending time with friends and loved ones, music, soccer, and chess.

Over the past several years Nathan Jons has interacted with numerous refugees from Persian speaking countries and noticed the difficulties they face in adjusting to a new language, culture, and community. Seeing these needs, along with a deep appreciation for these individuals, has motivated him to seek a degree in Applied Linguistics and learn the Persian language. He desires to teach English as a Second Language and serve refugees in the midst of their cultural and life transitions. Nathan moved to Portland in 2011 with his wife and kids, and when not knee-deep in homework, loves spending time with them, reading, coloring, and going on adventures. He and his family are thankful for all their interaction with the local Persian community.

Karen Lickteig is currently pursuing a degree in International Studies with a focus on the Middle East, with minors in Arabic language and Business Administration. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, urban development, sustainability, and cross-cultural communication. Karen grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and arrived in Portland in 2008 to attend Lewis & Clark College. She transferred to PSU in 2011 after studying abroad as a William Jefferson Clinton Scholar at the American University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She also attended a PSU short-term faculty-led program to Doha, Qatar in Spring 2012. Last summer, she was awarded a Critical Language Scholarship for advanced Arabic study in Amman, Jordan. Karen has visited the UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, and Oman. She has also interned for the US-Qatar Business Council and the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center of the Middle East Institute, both in Washington, D.C. She currently serves as the Office Coordinator for PSU’s Middle East Studies Center. Karen plans to study Arabic in Muscat, Oman this summer on a FLAS fellowship. She will also enroll in the Master of Urban Studies program in the fall as a FLAS fellow, focusing on Middle Eastern cities and urban development.

Laila Taraghi is a new PhD student in Public Affairs and Policy.  In the spring of 2012, Laila completed her MA in Political Science from the University of Arkansas.  Her master’s thesis, ‘Competing for Relevance: Iran’s Internal Struggle to Define the Arab Spring, explores the framing contest embarked upon by the Iranian regime and its political opposition.  The thesis assesses how each side sought to assign credit to their respective movements for inspiring the Arab uprisings, thereby endeavoring to  resurrect the flagging legitimacy each camp faced as a byproduct of the country’s own political fallout.   Laila completed her undergraduate work through the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon where she received her BA in International Studies.  As a facet of her undergraduate career she spent the major part of a year studying Persian at the Dehkhoda Language Institute at the University of Tehran during 2005-2006. In addition to her time spent in Iran, Laila enjoyed another three months abroad at the University of Jordan during the fall of 2007 where she participated in an intensive Arabic language program.  During the summer of 2010 she was awarded a language study grant that took her to Beirut to study Lebanese colloquial dialect as a part of the S.C.A.L.E. program at the American University of Science and Technology in Beirut.

Seth Thomas is a senior at Portland State majoring in Arabic and International Studies: Middle East. As a child he lived in East Jerusalem from 1998 to 2002 and has been fascinated by the languages and cultures of the region since then. He began taking Arabic his sophomore year and has spent the past year studying Arabic in the Middle East at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Arabic Language Institute at the American University in Cairo. He enjoys working with video and music, hiking, reading comics (as well as trying to translate Egyptian comics) and is looking forward to returning to the Pacific Northwest this summer.

Jonathan Vance started at Portland State University fall term. His interest in the Middle East, particularly Iran, is what brought him back to his hometown to study at Portland State. As an undergraduate, Jonathan is pursuing an International Studies degree, which allows him to study the Persian language. His intention is to elevate his Persian to the level of fluency and use this to pursue a graduate degree and a professional career in international relations. Jonathan is fascinated with the relationship that America has with Iran, and the lack of goodwill that exists between these two states. He believes that despite the grievances each country has towards each other, they can be overcome with diplomatic progress and the realization of common interests. This summer, Jonathan is enrolling in an immersion program at Wisconsin-Madison to improve his linguistic ability, and transition back into Portland State next fall to continue the pursuit of fluency. When he is not studying Jonathan is often still on the Portland State campus. He spends quite a bit of his time at the recreation center playing sports and lifting weights. Jonathan says his time at Portland State has been the most rewarding of his collegiate career, and he looks forward to completing another year of study.

Ahmed Zuhairy is a first generation Iraqi. He is in his fourth year at Portland State, double-majoring in Arabic and Political Science. Ahmed's interest in politics began during middle school after listening to politically charged punk music. His interest in Arabic began during his first year at Portland State when he became fascinated with his heritage. This led him to begin studying Arabic under Dr. Yasmeen Hanoosh, who greatly increased his desire to continue to learn his heritage language. In fall 2012, he spent the semester In Amman at the University of Jordan studying Arabic. After Jordan, Ahmed visited Iraq, his father’s country of origin, for the first time. His academic interests include MSA Arabic and various dialects and international politics. He also has an interest in international peace, conflict prevention, and refugee aid/solutions. He has a very strong personal interest in bicycling and he races for the Portland State Cycling Team. He also works with an Iraqi refugee family in SE Portland.