Arabic Immersion: UNA Student Chosen for U.S. State Department Language Scholarship Program

Mar. 11, 2010


FLORENCE, Ala. – The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has chosen University of North Alabama sophomore Allison Ray for its elite Critical Language Scholarship program. Ray, of Huntsville, was one of only 537 chosen from a national pool of more than 5,300 applicants. She plans to study Arabic through the program.

“The quality of the applicants is phenomenal,” said UNA Honors Program director Dr. Vince Brewton, who has helped screen applicants for the program. “She [Allison] was competing nationally with the very best undergraduate and graduate students, and believe me, the qualifications of these people will blow your mind.”

Brewton said he has personally reviewed applicants from Ivy League schools as well as applicants with upper-level degrees such as the Ph.D.

“I’ve had applicants from the Naval Academy who were in the SEAL program,” he said.

According the Department of State, the CLS program is part of a U.S. government interagency effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical-need foreign languages. The program is made up of international institutes providing fully funded seven- to 10-week group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences for U.S. citizens enrolled as undergraduate or graduate students.

Ray said the application process was tedious and demanding.

“The process was very long. I had to write four essays and fill out a lot of paperwork as well as get three letters of recommendation,” she said.

Ray is currently in her second semester of Arabic at UNA. She plans to join the Peace Corps, the State Department or an NGO after graduating with a degree in sociology and international studies.

Ray will not know her CLS host country until April. According to the Department of State, she could study in Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan or Oman.

“People keep asking what country I want to study in,” she said, “but I really don’t have a preference. I am just ecstatic and blown away to even be chosen.”

Brewton said it is pretty obvious why Ray was chosen.

“She has poise and a maturity about her that communicates itself to people, and she has distinguished herself at UNA,” he said. “She is very involved in activities on our campus but also very strong academically.

“She’s just a person that really impresses you with her maturity and her resolve.”