DAHLONEGA, GA (02/04/2019)– In January, Hannah Chisholm of Monroe, GA was one of seven University of North Georgia students selected as semifinalists for the Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS). CLS is a fully-funded overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. Chisholm is pursuing a degree in communication with a minor in Korean.
Becoming immersed in a foreign culture and learning to speak the language fluently through an intensive program is one purpose of the program.
Victoria Hightower, assistant director of the Nationally Competitive Scholarships Office and associate professor of history at UNG, explained the CLS is an incredibly competitive scholarship that only accepts 10 percent of applicants.
“UNG has never had such a varied or wide group of students become semifinalists before,” she said. “Our students this year worked diligently as individuals and in group workshops to develop their applications.”
Having seven semifinalists marks a new record for UNG as well as a 250 percent increase in semifinalists since 2014 when UNG President Bonita Jacobs created the Nationally Competitive Scholarships Office. Last academic year, five were semifinalists. Of those, three were finalists and two were alternates. UNG had one finalist and one semifinalist for both 2016-17 and 2015-16.
“UNG students are increasingly competitive in the CLS scholarship,” said Dr. Anastasia Lin, assitant vice president for research and engagement. “We credit this to the hard work of our students, their mentors, and the excellent preparation provided by our language faculty. Previous applicants for the CLS have gone on to win other awards including the Boren, Gilman, Fulbright, and Rangel Fellowships; we are eager to see what’s next for both our applicants and our semifinalists!”
A few are celebrating their honor of being named semifinalists.
“I thought I had a one-in-a-million chance to become a semifinalist,” said Julia Smith, a junior from Dahlonega. “It’s one of the most competitive programs, and we are going up against students at bigger and Ivy League colleges and universities. I’m just a small-town girl and I was really surprised that I got it.”
Hannah Chisholm, a sophomore from Monroe, Georgia, was shocked she was a semifinalist because she started the application process late when she missed the information session. Chisholm decided to speak with Lin, who convinced her to apply.
Applicants must write four short-answer essays and a personal statement and include their transcripts and two recommendations.
“I thought, ‘The worst that can happen is I don’t get it,'” Chisholm said, adding now that it is a possibility, she is apprehensive. “I am excited, but I would lying if I didn’t say there was fear.”
Leah James, a freshman from Ellenwood, Georgia, is also excited about the opportunity to study the Arabic language in Oman.
“They have a unique way of writing,” James said. “It’s so beautiful, because it is so different. And I like a challenge.”
James, who hopes to eventually commission, is also grateful for the opportunity as a freshman cadet.
“This will allow me to get a well-rounded experience using this critical language,” she said.
James isn’t the only freshman or cadet willing to face the challenge of studying overseas. Daniel Shearer, a freshman from Suwanee, Georgia, hopes to become a finalist to study in Japan.
“I intend to commission through UNG and as an East Asian major, I would love to have a duty station over there,” he said, adding the CLS program will give him an advantage. “I will have greater fluency in Japanese as well as have complete immersion in the culture that would come through living and working there.”
Shearer, however, is cautious about his future expectation.
“I am not taking it as an accomplishment, because I am not yet a finalist,” he said. “I’m excited for the opportunity. If I do get it, then it will be a large honor.”
Finalists will be chosen in February.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, CLS is a fully-funded overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. Its goal is to broaden the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries.
Positioned in the fastest-growing region of the state, the University of North Georgia comprises five campuses united by a single mission focused on academic excellence and academic and co-curricular programs that develop students into leaders for a diverse and global society. The University of North Georgia is a University System of Georgia leadership institution and is The Military College of Georgia. With more than 19,000 students, the University of North Georgia is the state’s sixth-largest public university. The university offers more than 100 programs of study ranging from certificate and associate degrees to professional doctoral programs.
This press release was prepared for Your Local News by Readmedia Newswire.