Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship Awards Announced
Author: Tam Rankin, Middle East Studies Center
Posted: May 2, 2012

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 2012-13

Pouya Ahmadi (Arabic), Ryan Deming (Arabic), Cody French (Arabic), Matthew Innes (Arabic), Nicholas Smith (Arabic), and Jonathan Vance (Persian)

Summer 2012

Touraj Houshmand-Shafii (Persian), Matthew Innes (Arabic), Asena Lawrence (Turkish), Jena Mathews (Arabic), Katelin Putnam (Turkish), Bella Reid (Arabic), and Jonathan Vance (Persian)

Academic Year 2011-12

Kathryn Krueger (Turkish), Jena Mathews (Arabic), Katelin Putnam (Turkish), David Duke (Arabic), and Aileen Wyse (Arabic)

Summer 2011

Ethan Gross (Hebrew), Touraj Houshmand-Shafii (Persian), Katelin Putnam (Turkish), David Duke (Arabic), and James Moran (Turkish)

Academic Year 2010-11

Megan Dyer (Hebrew), Michelia Kramer (Turkish), Jena Mathews (Arabic), Meghan Ohmart (Arabic), Laurie Schindler (Arabic), Renata Stauder (Arabic), and Aileen Wyse (Arabic)


Pouya Ahmadi is a senior majoring in International Studies and Political Science with a minor in Arabic. He has strong feelings for religious tolerance and global equality and hopes to continue his studies after PSU in international law and diplomacy. Pouya is fluent in three languages and learning two others; he has traveled to 19 countries and enjoys salsa dancing, and indoor soccer. Pouya currently holds a paid internship at SYMANTEC while also volunteering for a nonprofit, and working on a research thesis as a former McNair scholar.

Ryan Deming is junior majoring in International Studies and minoring in Arabic. Ryan came to Portland State as a sophomore, after completing his first year of college at Southern Oregon University. This summer, he will be participating in an intensive six-week Arabic program in Fes, Morocco. He hopes that this experience will help him to achieve a high level of proficiency in the language before he returns to PSU in the fall to continue his studies.

Cody French is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Arabic Studies at PSU. In addition to Arabic, he has studied French and Spanish, and has a strong interest in sign languages of the world and in the “geography” and histories of languages. His linguistic pursuits often tussle for attention with making, playing, and recording music with some of his best friends - after a hike or a game of croquet and a beer on the porch on a summer afternoon.

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.

Matthew Innes specializes in impact metrics analysis, and is researching risk assessment in social entrepreneur financing while he completes his MBA. He has previously worked in French and Spanish; his interest in Arabic was spurred by personal experiences in the Middle East and the opportunities for social entrepreneurship created by the Arab Spring

Having received a scholarship from the American Councils for International Education (ACIE), Bella Reid came to the United States from the Kyrgyz Republic in 1999 to study at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. In 2002, Bella graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. In 2011, she decided to continue her education and enrolled in Portland State University’s graduate program in Conflict Resolution. Bella’s professional interests have always lain in international relations; therefore, along with conflict resolution, she chose to also study Arabic. Knowledge of the Arabic language is a skill Bella would like to use as a future international conflict resolution practitioner.  

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.

Jena Mathews is a senior at Portland State University studying International Studies with a focus on the Middle East and a minor in the Arabic language.  She chose to learn Arabic so that she can, in the future, work with women's rights groups who promote women into positions of power and decision making in Middle Eastern societies.  There is an opportunity for positive and powerful change in the Middle East right now and it is very important that women are involved in this process.  She plans to participate in an intensive language program this summer in the Middle East to really solidify her language skills and hopefully make contacts with women's rights organizations.  Jena sees graduate school in her future, but for the time being, she is very excited to take what she has learned at PSU into the real world.

Katelin Putnam is majoring in Applied Linguistics and minoring in Turkish language study. Her other academic interests include French as a foreign language, Middle-East studies and women’s studies.   She is very interested in languages, and learning foreign languages is a personal hobby outside of class. She works as the Historian for the Arab-Persian Student Organization (APSO), which focuses on issues pertaining to the entire Middle East, excluding differentiating factors such as language, religion or ethnicity. She has lived in Turkey teaching English as a second language. 

Katie Krueger is working towards a B.A. in international studies, with a focus on the Middle East, and double minors in women’s studies and the Turkish language. Throughout her course of study, her passionate commitment to learning and utilizing Turkish has helped Katie hone her interest in Turkish culture, politics and women’s rights, all of which she plans to incorporate into her future goals working in Turkey with human rights organizations. Alongside Turkish, Katie studied Arabic for two years and hopes to continue learning the language when traveling in the Middle East in the future. She loves hiking and surfing at the Oregon Coast, sharing her love of cooking with friends and family, and traveling to unique places, both in the United States and around the world.

As a second year MA student in the Department of Political Science, David Duke's interest in the Middle East has led him to Tunisia and Jordan over the last two summers. Both a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship and a Critical Language Scholarship have supported his study of Arabic and research on civil society development in the North African Maghreb. When not travelling and studying, you might find David scuba diving the Oregon coast, riding his motorcycle, or lurking around Powell's bookstore.

Aileen Wyse has been studying Arabic at PSU since the fall of 2006, and began graduate work focusing on the history of the Modern Middle East last year.  She is excited about the poetry of al-Andalus, and glad that she is finally studying it.  Aileen loves Arabic grammar and enjoys tutoring Arabic. She spends her extra moments at Powell’s where she has been collecting the best of children’s literature for decades.  Before taking a long break to raise her children, Aileen obtained a BA degree from Harvard, and an MBA from Stanford.