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Whitworth business professor named an ambassador for critical language program by U.S. government

October 11, 2012
Last summer, Todd Friends, an assistant professor of business at Whitworth, was one of 20 people nationwide to be selected a 2012 Critical Language Scholarship Ambassador by the U.S. State Department. Friends’ ambassadorship will allow him to share with regional college students the increasing importance of language and cultural knowledge development as business markets become increasingly globalized.

Friends was named an ambassador after receiving a Critical Language Scholarship, which allowed him to spend 10 weeks last summer learning intensive Mandarin Chinese at Shaanxi Normal University, in Xi'an, China. He describes the CLS Program as a state-of-the-art language and cultural immersion experience. Friends says it's been an academic privilege to participate in such a rigorous program, and he calls it an honor to be selected as a representative amongst such a cadre of talent.

Friends says more American students need to engage with other cultures, and he is passionate about encouraging them to study around the world.

“Studying abroad for a semester will triple the value of everything you’ve learned,” he says. “The experience transforms the depth of your global view.”

Friends continues, “Just yesterday I had a student in my office glowing about an international experience from the summer, a student-athlete who thought it couldn’t happen. This student’s second-language ability went from conversational to fluent. The challenge and joy of communicating cross-culturally had clicked.”

Scholarships such as the CLS Program underscore two aspects of Whitworth's 2021 Vision and Strategic Plan. These scholarships align with the plan’s third goal, which seeks to prepare Whitworth students with “the knowledge, skills and insight they need to thrive as global citizens.” The international travel afforded by such scholarships requires the interdisciplinary learning that comes from a liberal arts education at Whitworth, as emphasized in the strategic plan’s fifth goal.

Earlier this year, Whitworth alumnus Grady Kepler, ’12, also received a Critical Language Scholarship. He was selected from among 5,200 applicants nationwide to receive the scholarship, which allowed him to study Arabic in Tunisia last summer.

As part of his ambassadorship, Friends has given presentations on CLS to all of Whitworth’s Chinese and Japanese language classes, as well as the courses in International Business and Introduction to Business. Earlier this month, he was the invited guest speaker at the Washington State Sister Cities Conference, delivering a lecture on how to do business in China.

In upcoming months, Friends plans on hosting CLS orientation sessions for Whitworth students and faculty, and for regional university students at Whitworth’s U-District campus. He also plans to schedule teaching roundtables for professors, through which he will inform faculty about pedagogical methods and opportunities of overseas education. This spring, Friends hopes to deliver a lecture on China in Whitworth’s Robinson Teaching Theatre. Later this academic year, he will team with John Yoder and Megan Hershey, both professors in Whitworth’s political science department, for an all-campus presentation on the CLS and Fulbright scholarship programs.

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; they represent 239 institutions of higher education from across the United States, including public and private universities, liberal arts colleges and community colleges.

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 or

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