Critical Language Scholarship

Critical Language Scholarship

Program Overview
The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical need foreign languages. Students of diverse disciplines and majors are encouraged to apply. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period, and later apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

Countries may include: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Russia, South Korea, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, or others where the target languages are spoken.

Critical Language Scholarships (CLS) provide group-based summer intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences for eight to ten weeks. CLS institute dates will be posted once finalized, but the institutes generally begin within the first three weeks in June, and end within the first three weeks in August. All expenses are covered by the scholarship.

Application Deadline Early-to-mid November for the following summer

Program web site

For more information about the program please visit their site or contact Debra Clemans,

Meet PSU's CLS Recipients

Summer 2021

Eva Basile - Korean

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Eva will be graduating in Spring 2021 with a B.A. in Global Studies and a minor in Political Science. She began studying Korean at PSU in 2018 and applied for the CLS Program 2021 hoping to continue her study after graduation and improve her speaking fluency. After spending time as an Orientation Leader, International Student Peer Mentor, and IELP Conversation Partner on campus, Eva developed a passion for working with international students in higher education. This inspired her to apply for CLS to be able to relate to the experience of studying abroad and to better communicate with more student populations. Eva will be studying in Gwangju, South Korea this summer at Chonnam University.

Jaden Gloden - Chinese

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Jaden is working towards a BS in Public Health Studies and a BA in Chinese. She first began learning Chinese in elementary school through an immersion program. After earning her AA from Clackamas Community College, Jaden decided to continue her education at PSU so that she could further her Chinese studies and fulfill her hopes of studying abroad. She is excited to use this experience to better her speaking skills, knowledge of culture, and to make new connections. 


Summer 2020

Although CLS was forced to suspend it's Summer 2020 programs for intensive language programs due to Covid-19, we at PSU wish to congratulate the following selected student. Over 5000 people applied for CLS this year and selection is an honor! (Debra Clemans 4/30/2020)

Sasha Gorda - Turkish

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Sasha is a second year student at PSU and will be studying Turkish in Bursa, Turkey in Summer 2020. She plans to graduate 2022 with a BA in Russian and International Studies. She is also part of the Russian Flagship Program at PSU and plans to study abroad in Kazakhstan in her senior year. She was drawn to studying Turkish because of its cultural connection to Central Asia, the rich history of Turkey, as well as Turkey's importance in world politics today.


Summer 2019

Sofia Velasquez - Turkish

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Sofia Velasquez graduates Spring 2019 with a B.A in Women’s Studies with a minor in Communication Studies. She grew up speaking Spanish and during her time in college, she realized she had a huge amount of love for the Arabic language and began to study and teach herself. After spending some time working with international families for a non-profit and volunteering with immigrants and refugees through organizations like IRCO, CAUSA and the YWCA of Greater Portland’s Social Justice Program, she realized that the next language she wanted to learn more about was Turkish so she decided to apply to the CLS program and was accepted to study Turkish in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2019. Prior to this, in the year 2017 she received the Gilman Scholarship to study intercultural communications in both Lima and Cusco, Peru. Additionally, with her interests in race, gender and sexuality studies, she received an IIE Generation Study Abroad Travel Grant last summer to Madrid and Barcelona, Spain where she studied LGBTQ representations in Spanish film.


Alyssa Delury - Russian  (bio unavailable)

Summer 2018

Mason Hirahara - Chinese  (bio unavailable)

Summer 2017

Kelsey Canoy - Russian

Kelsey is a senior getting her B.A. in Arabic and Russian. After some time in the Marine Corps, she developed a desire to finish college and learn a new language. Upon discovering her love for Arabic, she has been fortunate enough to study in Jordan and Oman. She has also studied Russian for the past year and a half. As a recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship, Kelsey will spend the summer of 2017 in Vladimir, Russia where she hopes to learn more about the Russian culture and improve her language skills. She loves to travel, meet new people, and experience different cultures. After graduation, she hopes to live abroad and put her languages to use working with the government.

Ryan Donovan Russian

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Ryan, a political science major and Russian minor, brings a kaleidoscopic array of perspectives and influences that only someone who has traveled to both the Arctic and Iraqi Kurdistan can. After living in Oslo while working for UNICEF Norway he returned to the U.S. with an interest in the former Soviet Union. The focus of his research is on the Russian periphery, particularly the Arctic, Central Asia, and the Sino-Russian relationship. During the summer of 2017 he will be studying on a CLS program in Vladimir, Russia. Ryan currently interns at the World Affairs Council of Oregon and has been accepted to present his research at a number of symposiums. Upon graduation, he hopes to continue his education in either an international relations program or law school, with the goal of pursuing a career in diplomacy and public policy.

Gabriella Hoffman -Russian

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Gabriella started studying Russian in 2014 with Kristine Shmakov at Portland Community College and is currently enrolled in the Russian Flagship Program at PSU. She is a post-graduate student, bilingual in English and Hungarian, and working toward becoming trilingual. Her interest in the Russian language began while working as an academic tutor of Russian-speaking immigrant children through the Portland-based Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO). Since then, she has developed a keen interest in the language, culture, society, and history of this vast land and its people. Gabriella has received gold and silver medals for the ACTR National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contests in 2017 & 2016.

Mina Pournaderi - Swahili

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Although Mina wanted to be a linguist when she was younger, she is currently a Social Work major in the BSW program at PSU. Her interest in Swahili began when she enrolled in PSU after transferring from a community college. Already speaking three languages, (English, Farsi, and German), she wanted to try something new and PSU offered it! After enrolling for two years, she was accepted to the CLS Program and will be spending the summer of 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania. Following the CLS Program, Mina has an internship to work with IRCO (Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization) and populations from East Africa. After graduation, Mina wants to work in East Africa surrounding issues of human rights and water resources to help ensure that all people have equal access to clean drinking water.

Tara Mandella -Russian  (bio unavailable)

Paolo Menuez -Japanese  (bio unavailable)

Summer 2016

Megan Burns - Swahili


Megan is a Community Development major and a Senior in the Honors College going for a BS. She grew up right here in the Pacific Northwest in Vancouver, Washington, and has lived in Portland for the past 9 years. In 2013, she was the first community college recipient of a Boren Award, and that, along with various other scholarships, allowed her to study Swahili in Tanzania. In the summer of 2015 she studied bicycle urbanism in Copenhagen, Denmark funded by several scholarships. As a recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship for Swahili, Megan will spend the summer of 2016 in Arusha, Tanzania studying Swahili and Business and Entrepreneurship at the MT Training Centre for Development Cooperation. She currently works as an Engagement Manager for a public involvement firm in Portland called Design+Culture Lab. After graduation, she intends on utilizing her Swahili language skills, as well as the skills she has gained in her current position, to begin a career in the field of sustainable international development.

Michael Farr - Russian

Michael is a post-baccalaureate student in the PSU Russian Flagship Program. Michael, whose grandmother is Russian, began learning the language on his own and with a private tutor while he was in the Army. After leaving the service in 2014, he moved back to his home state of Oregon and began investigating ways to further his studies. He was drawn to the Flagship program due to its connection to the Department of Defense, its intensive nature and career-oriented focus. Michael will be traveling to Russia in Summer 2016 on a Critical Languages Scholarship to study at the KORA Center for Russian Language Study in Vladimir. He hopes to eventually use his language skills in the national security field or return to his journalism roots to work as a foreign correspondent.

Chase Riegel - Russian

Chase has always been interested in becoming fluent in a foreign language. That combined with a seemingly constant interest in Russia and Russian culture, he chose to learn Russian and it has since become the number one driving force in his life. He started studying Russian with a private tutor during his last few years of high school and started taking Russian courses at PCC after he graduated. From there he was introduced to PSU's Russian Flagship Program and immediately knew that it was for him. Chase studied Russian for two months in Vladimir, Russia on the CLS Program in 2015, and is astonished and delighted to be given another chance to do the same this year. Although his career goals are still developing, Chasee knows he wants a career that will allow him to speak Russian on a daily basis.

Amber Shore - Russian

Amber is earning a double major in Russian and Applied Linguistics at PSU. After earning an AA in her home state of Washington, she spent three years working and saving. When she found the Russian Flagship Program at PSU, she enrolled to pursue her passion for studying language in general and Russian specifically. With hard work and the support of the program faculty, she won the Critical Language Scholarship and will be studying this summer in Vladimir, Russia. After graduation, she is interested in working in diplomacy or with an international NGO.

Summer 2015

Colton Hennick - Russia

Colton began to independently study Russian his sophomore year of high school and moved specifically to Portland to be a part of the Russian Flagship Program at PSU. Colton studied abroad during the summer of 2014 in Tbilisi Georgia on the Critical Language Scholarship. He won the Critical Language Scholarship again in 2015 and will spend this summer in Vladimir, Russia.  He will graduate with a B.A. in Russian.

Peter Fodor - Japan

Peter is a PCC alumnus, and soon to graduate from PSU with a major in Applied Linguistics and a minor in Japanese. He has worked in IT and precision machining throughout his tertiary education, and looks forward to attending graduate school soon. His research interests include orthography, literacy, technology in education, conversation analysis, and second language acquisition.

Simon Peters - China

Simon is a recent graduate from the University Honors College, earning his BA with a double major in Applied Linguistics and Chinese, along with a certificate in Asian Studies.  Following two years of language study at PSU, Simon first visited China with CLS in 2012. The program kicked-off his year of study abroad, during which he studied Chinese at PSU's sister school in southern Taiwan, followed by coursework and an independent research project at an SIT Study Abroad site in southwestern China.  His research examined language attitudes and language shift among Tibetan speakers in an urbanizing tourism hub.  His paper was published in Anthós, PSU's undergraduate Honors College research journal, and is accessible through the PDX Scholar portal.  Since graduating, he has been working as a conversation partner in PSU's Intensive English Language Program.  In the fall, Simon will begin a graduate fellowship in linguistics at UC Santa Barbara, where he will earn his PhD specializing in language documentation.  

Lacey Smith - Turkey  (bio unavailable)

Summer 2014

Noah Sellers - Morocco

Noah Sellers has been awarded a Critical Language Scholarship to Morocco for the summer of 2014. Noah is a 2006 graduate of PSU's Applied Linguistics and TESOL programs, currently studying in the PSU Arabic program.  He has taught English in Thailand, South Korea, Slovakia, and Indonesia. 

Karen Lickteig - Morocco

Karen Lickteig grew up in Wichita, Kansas and moved to Portland in 2008 to attend Lewis & Clark College. After her first study abroad experience in 2010-11 as a William Jefferson Clinton Scholar in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, she transferred to PSU and began working at the university's Middle East Studies Center. She has been back to the Middle East four additional times - to Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon and Turkey. In 2013 she earned her BA in International Studies focusing on the Middle East with minors in Arabic language and Business Administration from Portland State. Karen 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. Karen is currently pursuing a Master of Urban Studies at PSU as a Foreign Language & Area Studies fellow, and will continue her Arabic language studies this summer as a Critical Language Scholar in Rabat, Morocco. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, urban design, human rights, sustainable development, and cross-cultural communication.

Dean Leininger - Japan 

Dean Leininger, a first generation college student, is studying Japanese language in Summer 2014 in Himeji, Japan through the Critical Language Scholarship. He is very glad to have the opportunity to see the country he's so long waited to visit.  He aspires to later study for a Master's degree in translation/interpreting after first spending time teaching for the JET program or at one of Japan's many private language schools as an English teacher, thus giving him more time to improve his Japanese language and culture skills.  (Photo not available)

Colton Hennick - Georgia

Colton Hennick grew up in the small, rural town of Placerville, California. During his high school Spanish classes, he realized his love for foreign languages and was eager to learn more. He began to independently study Russian his sophomore year of high school and moved specifically to Portland to be a part of the Russian Flagship Program at PSU. His independent study paid off and allowed him to place into the end of second year Russian at PCC Sylvania after which he transferred to PSU. During the summer of 2014 Colton studied Russian in Tbilisi, Georgia this coming summer. He will graduate with a B.A. in Russian and pursue a career in intelligence with the U.S. government. 

Summer 2013

Kelly Greenberg – India

Kelly graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BS in Child and Family Studies from PSU in 2010. She is currently a graduate student in the School of Social Work at PSU and pursuing an MSW degree with a focus on community based practice and international policy on child sex trafficking and women’s empowerment. In 2009, she spent three months interning with IE3 Global Internships for two grassroots organizations in India where she worked with women in the Kamathipura Red Light District in Mumbai and their children, many of whom are affected by HIV/AIDS, leading and co-facilitating small educational groups on risk reduction. She also interned at Children’s Future India (CFI), an NGO that sponsors children, particularly females, and their families in their education, health, and nutrition up to 12th grade, and helps develop irrigation systems and other various needs in rural villages. For Summer 2013, she received a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) from the U.S. Department of State to study Hindi in a two-month intensive language program in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Her ultimate goal is to work for the UN/UNICEF to help create and change policies around international child welfare and women’s empowerment, particularly in India.

Chris Sarter - Russia