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Whitworth senior receives prestigious language scholarship from U.S. State Department

May 18, 2012
Whitworth senior Grady Kepler, a sociology major from Lewistown, Mont., has been selected among 5,200 applicants nationwide to receive a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) from the U.S. State Department to study critical languages this summer. Kepler will be studying Arabic in Tunisia through the scholarship program.

Kepler is among roughly 575 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students who have received such scholarships to study Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, or Urdu languages. Kepler and his fellow scholarship recipients will spend seven to ten weeks in intensive language institutes this summer in 14 countries where these languages are spoken. The CLS Program provides fully-funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences. CLS Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

Kepler says he applied for the program because he saw it as a way to further his knowledge of Arabic language and culture. He says studying Arabic has provided opportunities to build relationships and to become informed about a culture and language very different from his own. It also fits in with his desire to work with refugees in the long-term.

"Studying Arabic abroad will allow me to become immersed in the language and it is one of the best ways to become better acquainted with the political, cultural and religious issues of the Middle East," Kepler says. "Whitworth has challenged me to understand my role and responsibility in understanding and meeting the needs of our world, and I hope to use this opportunity to strengthen my ability to live and work in a cross-cultural environment and to address the needs of those in my community, both at Whitworth and wherever I may be called after I graduate."

The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Selected finalists for the 2012 CLS Program hail from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and represent 239 institutions of higher education from across the United States, including public and private universities, liberal arts colleges, minority-serving institutions and community colleges.

During CLS Program outreach activities, particular attention is paid to states/regions of the U.S. that have been historically under-represented in the CLS applicant pool and to students from diverse backgrounds and academic majors. The CLS Program also encourages diversity in the independent review process, and includes readers and panelists from land-grant public universities, liberal arts colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), Ivy League institutions, and community colleges. In 2012, 256 professionals including critical language faculty, area studies specialists, international education professionals, and fellowship advisors participated in the selection process for the Critical Language Scholarship Program. Readers and panelists represented 44 states and 143 institutions.

CLS Program participants are among the more than 40,000 academic and professional exchange program participants supported annually by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The CLS Program is administered by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) and American Councils for International Education.

For further information about the CLS Program or other exchange programs offered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, please visit and

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


James Lawrence, bureau of educational and cultural affairs, U.S. Department of State, (202) 632-3241.

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or