Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

Record Number of W&L Students Awarded Critical Language Scholarship The Critical Language Scholarship Program funds a summer of overseas language and cultural immersion.

Screenshot-2022-03-28-at-15-54-18-Homepage-350x286 Record Number of W&L Students Awarded Critical Language Scholarship

A record number of Washington and Lee University students have received a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for the summer of 2024. The 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 college students.

This year’s W&L recipients included:

  • Nava Berwick ’27 to study Indonesian in Indonesia.
  • Brandon Bishop ’26 to study Arabic.
  • Lela Casey ’25 to study Arabic in Oman.
  • Samuel Cook ’27 to study Chinese in Taiwan.
  • Aliya Gibbons ’26 to study Arabic in Oman.
  • Posi Oluwakuyide ’24 to study Portuguese in Brazil.
  • Xavier Raymondson ’25 to study Russian in Georgia.

Charlotte Baker ’25, Katharine Clark ’26 and Jacob Lee ’27 were selected as alternates. Bishop has declined the CLS to accept the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals Fellowship.

“Our students understand that world language study is one important part of W&L’s mission to encourage ‘engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society,’ and I am excited to see a record number of our students have been selected to continue their language study abroad this summer,” said Matthew Loar, W&L’s director of fellowships. “This is a real testament to the hard work not just of our students for assembling such competitive applications, but also of our faculty for preparing them to pursue these world-expanding opportunities.”

Nava Berwick ’27

Nava-Berwick-2-350x233 Record Number of W&L Students Awarded Critical Language ScholarshipFor Berwick, receiving a CLS to study Indonesian language, culture and customs in Malang, Indonesia, brings her one step closer to her dream career as a foreign service officer for the U.S. Department of State. The scholarship is also meaningful because Berwick has grown up surrounded by Indonesian culture and has been an Indonesian-style classical dancer since she was 4 years old, performing at the U.S.-Indonesia Society, the Indonesian Embassy and the Smithsonian and for the Asian-American Chamber of Commerce.

“This scholarship will give me the language skills to deepen my relationship with Indonesian dance and the community, especially since Indonesian is not my first or second language,” said the Falls Church, Virginia, native. “I hope my experience will extend my engagement with Indonesian culture beyond what I have experienced thus far and toward closer bonds with the Indonesian community.”

Berwick is pursuing a double major in history and Japanese and a Middle East and South Asia studies minor with a concentration in Southeast Asian studies. She is grateful to Timothy Lubin, the Jessie Ball duPont Professor of Religion, for helping her realize her academic passion for South and Southeast Asia. On campus, Berwick is involved in Around the Globe, the Leadership Education and Development program, the Pan-Asian Association for Cultural Exchange and the DeLaney Center, and she is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. She also conducts research with Donald Gaylord, research archaeologist and instructor of anthropology, an opportunity that began during her participation in the Advanced Immersion and Mentoring (AIM) program before her first year at W&L and has helped her deepen her appreciation for history. She will also be starting a virtual internship with the U.S. Department of State in September 2024 as a researcher on current affairs in Indonesia, working with the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.

Lela Casey ’25

Lela-Casey-350x233 Record Number of W&L Students Awarded Critical Language ScholarshipCasey, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, is a global politics major with minors in poverty and human capability studies and Middle Eastern and South Asian studies. She will study Arabic in Nizwa, Oman, and is excited to further strengthen her language skills in an immersive setting. After spending Winter Term 2023 in Amman, Jordan, her Arabic skills improved noticeably by being completely immersed in the language and culture for several months.

On campus, Casey often seeks out events hosted by the Office of Inclusion and Engagement (OIE) that highlight and celebrate the diverse experiences of W&L students, and she has found a valuable support system among OIE staff, including Tammy Futrell, dean for diversity, inclusion and student engagement, and Fio Prado de Lewis, inclusion and engagement senior program coordinator. Casey is treasurer of Campus Kitchen, an OIE ambassador, a trip leader for Volunteer Venture and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She is also a virtual student federal service intern with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Language Services, where she helps recruit students to serve as interpreters and translators.

Samuel Cook ’27

Samuel-Cook-2-350x233 Record Number of W&L Students Awarded Critical Language ScholarshipCook will study Chinese in New Taipei, Taiwan, and appreciates the opportunity to develop linguistic and cultural proficiency in such an intensive and immersive environment. Cook is planning to study politics, computer science and Chinese at W&L, and aspires to work in a field where he can apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve political science questions, specifically issues of foreign policy at the intersection of technology and international relations.

On campus, Cook is the first-year representative to the Executive Committee of the student body. As he reflects on his first year at W&L, he is thankful for the people he has met and the guidance he has received from his professors as he explores his academic and career options.

“I have received an incredible amount of support from my professors and those in the Office of Career and Professional Development and Office of Fellowships,” said the Gastonia, North Carolina, native. “I am also constantly inspired by my classmates and friends to challenge myself and search for new opportunities.”

Aliya Gibbons ’26

Aliya-Gibbons-350x233 Record Number of W&L Students Awarded Critical Language ScholarshipGibbons, a political science minor and Middle East and South Asian studies minor from Guilford, Connecticut, will study Arabic in Nizwa, Oman. She received the 2023 Arabic Summer Scholarship from W&L’s Center for International Education, which allowed her to attend a language study program at the University of Jordan in Amman, Jordan. On campus, she is the co-editor of the opinions section of the Ring-tum Phi, a member of the White Book Review Committee for the Honor System and plays violin in the University Orchestra. With the CLS, Gibbons is looking forward to the opportunity to continue studying Arabic in an intensive and immersive setting.

“Being able to study abroad not only improves my language abilities, but also introduces me to new cultures, which is something I believe is an important part of being globally aware and having a broader understanding of the world,” Gibbons said.

Posi Oluwakuyide ’24

Posi-Oluwakuyide-1-1-350x233 Record Number of W&L Students Awarded Critical Language ScholarshipFor Oluwakuyide, the CLS seamlessly integrates her undergraduate interest and postgraduate plans to pursue a career in international development because of its emphasis on intensive language study and immersive cultural experiences. An economics major and law, justice and society minor from Union, New Jersey, she will be studying Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“I came into this application process with many doubts because I had never committed to learning a language as intensively as I have chosen to do this year, so I feel extremely blessed that my efforts have been recognized and reaffirmed by the CLS selection committee,” said Oluwakuyide, who is currently studying abroad in Portugal for Winter Term. “Being awarded this scholarship means I have a lot more confidence in the path I have chosen for myself, despite the fact my interest in international development emerged later than I initially thought was competitive for this opportunity.”

Oluwakuyide credits her involvement with the Shepherd Program at W&L for inspiring and preparing her to do social impact work and is grateful for the support and guidance of the Shepherd faculty and staff during her time at W&L. Within the Shepherd Program, Oluwakuyide is a Bonner Leader and previously served as the co-chair of Campus Kitchen’s strategic planning committee; she has also served as co-president of the African Society, co-coordinator of Volunteer Venture, an Ignite Fellow for Teach for America and is an active member of the Student Association for Black Unity. In 2023, she attended the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at the University of Washington, where she studied how economics and data science are used to analyze and evaluate public policy.

Xavier Raymondson ’25

Xavier-Raymondson-350x233 Record Number of W&L Students Awarded Critical Language ScholarshipRaymondson, a native of Chesterfield, Virginia, is a sociology and Eastern European and Russian area studies double major. He is currently studying in Yerevan, Armenia, through the Boren Scholarship, and has supplemented his studies with volunteer work with EducationUSA Armenia and USAID in Armenia. With the CLS, Raymondson will spend the summer studying Russian in Tbilisi, Georgia, and is looking forward to continuing his studies in the South Caucasus region and improving his Russian, with plans to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.

“Being awarded the CLS allows me to continue spending time in a part of the world and with a language I have fallen in love with,” Raymondson said.

Raymondson is especially grateful for the support and mentorship he has received from Krzysztof Jasiewicz, the William P. Ames Jr. Professor of Sociology, who has played a central role in Raymondson’s progress as an aspiring researcher and has set an example for the kind of professor Raymondson would like to be one day.

If you know a W&L student who has done great, accolade-worthy things, tell us about them! Nominate them for an accolade.