Ellie Penner ’23 Awarded Critical Language Scholarship to Study in India Ellie Penner ’23, a Washington and Lee University senior, has received a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Bangla this summer in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
Ellie Penner ’23, a Washington and Lee University senior, has received a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Bangla this summer in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
Xavier Raymondson ’25 was selected as an alternate for Russian language studies.
The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and is a fully-funded summer overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students. Penner’s CLS opportunity in Kolkata runs through the American Institute for Indian Studies.
“Through W&L, I have had unbelievable opportunities over the last four years to pursue my own research questions in both India and Nepal,” Penner said. “Through the expertise and guidance of incredible professors such as Melissa Kerin, I have researched mid-century Bengali art movements for my senior thesis, which centers around modern artists who emerged from the Shantiniketan school in West Bengal. Through university funding, I took a research trip to West Bengal this winter break, which allowed me to collect primary source material relating to previously undocumented mural paintings.”
Kerin, associate professor of art history, has watched Penner evolve into an exceptional student during her time at W&L.
“When I met Ellie well more than three years ago, I immediately knew she had a profound intellectual curiosity,” Kerin said. “I did not realize then that this passion for learning would lead her to South Asia to learn Tibetan and Nepali. The depth of Ellie’s intellectual curiosity and her cordial, mature personality sets her apart. As I have had the privilege of working with Ellie in several capacities since we first met, I must say my initial impression of her was correct.”
The CLS award allows Penner to continue her art-historical research questions in a “deep, engaged way.”
“Language study embraces the intangible culture of communication, a marvel inseparable from artistic innovation and art history,” Penner said.
George Bent, Sidney Gause Childress Professor of the Arts, also worked with Penner during her time at W&L and found her to be an “extraordinary student.”
“Ellie Penner speaks carefully but directly, understands the importance of cultural diplomacy, and tempers her bubbly personality with a gravitas befitting whatever topic is at hand,” Bent said. “She has a wicked sense of humor, an unusually fierce dose of personal courage and a refreshing air of optimism that she uses to convince herself and others that the impossible is, in fact, quite attainable, and she has the drive and the determination to turn the attainable into the extraordinary.”
The CLS Program runs every summer and is open to American students at colleges and universities. The competition for summer 2024 scholarships will open in fall 2023. The goals of the highly selective program are to broaden the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and to build relationships between citizens of the U.S. and other countries.