Three LAS students receive Critical Language Scholarships

Department of State program enables 8-10 weeks of studying abroad
Student recipients
From left: Shireen Aydogan, Karel Pene, and Sylvia Techmanski. (Photos provided.)

Three College of LAS students were awarded U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarships to study foreign languages this summer. Shireen Aydogan, Karel Pene, and Sylvia Techmanski received full scholarships to spend 8-10 weeks abroad studying one of 14 critical languages. The program is part of an initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages and cultural skills to enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

Scholarship recipients are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future careers. Approximately 10% of the 5,000 applicants nationwide received a Critical Language Scholarship in 2024, with approximately half self-identifying as racial or ethnic minorities and nearly 20% as first-generation college students.

Xavier Davenport, a doctoral candidate in music composition at the U of I, also received the scholarship this year.

Aydogan grew up in Orland Park, Illinois, and attended Whitney M. Young High School. She will study advanced Arabic in Nizwa, Oman, this summer. Aydogan is a senior majoring in molecular and cellular biology and minoring in Arabic studies. She competes at the U.S. Universities Arabic Debating Championship and is organizing a regional competition to help students express their beliefs in Arabic. As an aspiring physician, Aydogan plans to leverage her Arabic language skills and cultural understanding to enhance patient care and promote cultural humility in healthcare. She volunteers at the Avicenna health clinic and serves as a youth director for a global health initiative in Malindi, Kenya.

Pene, a native of Cameroon, attended Evanston Township High School. Already fluent in French, she studied abroad in South Korea, where she quickly improved her Korean language skills. She plans to return to South Korea with the CLS scholarship. A sophomore in psychology, she would like to work with organizations creating sustainable policies and solutions for climate change. She believes Korea is a country on the front lines of the battle against air pollution, and she wants to learn more about the current policies and technologies that are in place to combat this issue. At the U of I she is a member of the Global Leaders Program, a four-year cohort-based program that promotes human-centered design, which places communities at the heart of the solution process. 

Techmanski plans to study Portuguese in Brazil, with a goal of helping Portuguese-speaking immigrants in the U.S. as a speech-language pathologist. A sophomore in speech and hearing science and Spanish, she has worked at a nonprofit organization with Spanish speakers and as a medical interpreter. She is active in the Luso-Brazilian Association and attends events at the Lemann Center for Brazilian Studies in order to connect with the local Brazilian community. Techmanski, who attended Normal Community West High School, in Normal, Illinois, believes that competently assessing and treating Portuguese-speaking children’s expressive and receptive language skills and educating their families on the importance of continuing to use Portuguese at home will result in greater Portuguese language stability within the country, and in more Portuguese-speaking children feeling connected to their heritage.


News Source

Maeve Reilly, Illinois News Bureau