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Two Students Earn Competitive Critical Language Scholarships

Alex McGrath and Annie Renaud

Two SUNY Geneseo students, senior Alex McGrath from Larchmont, N.Y., and sophomore Annie Renaud from Glastonbury, Conn., have won highly competitive Critical Language Scholarship awards for Russian this year among a field of national candidates.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a fully funded summer overseas language and cultural immersion program in the U.S. State Department for American undergraduate and graduate students. The State Department encourages undergraduates to study languages deemed to be critical to national security and competitiveness, and the department established the program to address that need. The awards are offered for 14 languages deemed critical by the U.S. government.

“I'm thrilled to have been selected for the CLS program as I have always wanted to have an immersive language experience,” said Renaud, a communication major with a minor in Central and Eastern European Studies and also an Edgar Fellow in the college’s honors program.  “Participating in this program will allow me to develop my Russian proficiency, learn more about the Russian culture and improve my interpersonal and intercultural communication skills. I'm so grateful to have this opportunity, and after the program is complete I hope to apply this cultural knowledge to my studies at Geneseo.”

To be eligible for the scholarship, Renaud and McGrath were required to have reached the intermediate level of Russian. They will embark on an intensive period of immersive language study this summer in either Vladimir or Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, which will be the equivalent of one year of college language training. 

“Receiving the Critical Language Scholarship is a huge honor and the perfect capstone to my time at Geneseo,” said McGrath, a mathematics major and a linguistics minor. “The scholarship’s intensive Russian program will allow me to better pursue my interest in East European and Slavic languages and culture in graduate school and throughout my life. I would like to thank all of my mentors and friends at Geneseo who made this possible for me.”

McGrath received this year’s Provost Ambassadorship in Diversity through the college’s Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Development. He also completed a study abroad experience last spring at Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea.

Michael Mills, director of national fellowships and scholarships at Geneseo, says Geneseo offers strong expertise for the Russian critical language program.

“A surprising number of Geneseo students are fluent in or speak at least some Russian and Ukrainian, as many are children or grandchildren of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Eurasia,” said Mills. “As is always the case with these significant awards, faculty and staff members across campus wrote letters and provided support for the applications. One of those individuals instrumental in this year's success with the award is Dr. Cyndy Klima, associate professor of languages and literatures, who has for years been a mentor for students interested in studying Central and Eastern European culture and languages, and has now worked with four of the six Geneseo's CLS winners."  

The awards bring to three the number of critical language scholarships earned by Geneseo students in Russian. The previous recipient was Mark Simeone ’10. Geneseo students have also won twice for Turkish (James Kuras '09 and Bob Viglietta '12) and once for Arabic (Maria Sigalas '13). 

Pictured: Alex McGrath and Annie Renaud.

Media contact:
David Irwin
(585) 245-5529