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Six UofSC Students Awarded Critical Language Scholarship for Summer 2020

For the thirteenth year in a row, the University of South Carolina will be represented abroad through the U.S Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship (CLS). Jill Boggs, Arshiya Jeelani, Amelia Parkes, Michael Ponessa, Anna Sheppard, and Corinne Smith will represent UofSC on various CLS programs around the globe. Additionally, Alexis Anunson, Tyler Jackson, Harrison Murry, Jr., and Kathryn Ramey have been named alternates. This brings UofSC’s total CLS award winners to 37 since the scholarship was established.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. The program provides scholarships to U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to spend eight to ten weeks overseas studying one of 15 critical languages. Scholars gain language and cultural skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security. CLS scholars are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future careers. CLS scholars serve as citizen ambassadors, representing the diversity of the United States abroad and building lasting relationships with people in their host countries.

CLS candidates at the University of South Carolina are supported during their application process by the National Fellowships & Scholar Programs office within the South Carolina Honors College. For more information about the Critical Language Scholarship or other national competitions, contact National Fellowships & Scholar Programs at 777-0958, or visit us online at


Boggs is a SCHC junior McNair Scholar majoring in Political Science, History, and Art History. She will spend her CLS summer studying Persian in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. At UofSC, Boggs is a student researcher, sister of Alpha Xi Delta, a former executive on Order of Omega, a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, and a Phi Alpha Delta. Influenced by her career goal of becoming a Foreign Service Office, Boggs is excited to study a language not offered at UofSC that directly relates to her professional goals. She hopes to incorporate Persian into her research of examining ethnolinguistic conflict in Norway, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria.

Jeelani is a sophomore majoring in Political Science and History. She will be studying Turkish in Bursa, Turkey. At the age of twelve, Jeelani researched Turkey for a school project. She was enamored by how beautiful the country and culture were. She even started watching Turkish television shows trying to learn the language. Being awarded the CLS will allow her to achieve a childhood dream of learning the Turkish language and culture. In the future, Jeelani hopes to work in foreign relations.

Parkes is a SCHC junior McNair Scholar studying Russian and French. At UofSC, Parkes volunteers with Buddies Beyond Borders, Conversation Partners, a local Russian children’s theatre, and the Richland Country Library. Parkes loves studying languages, literature, and cultures. She started studying French when she was in elementary school, Latin in middle school, and Russian in high school. Receiving the CLS will allow her to further her language skills by being fully immersed in the Russian language and culture. She looks forward to spending her summer in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia meeting new people and trying new food.

Ponessa is a SCHC junior majoring in Biology who will be studying Punjabi in Chandigarh, India. On campus, Ponessa is a Gamecock Cheerleader, a member of Alpha Kappa Psi’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and a Park Place Resident Mentor. Ponessa was first introduced to Punjabi culture at a local Sikh temple while studying abroad in Hong Kong. He hopes to learn the values and ideas that bind us together through his Punjabi studies in India this summer. Upon returning to the US, Ponessa hopes to serve South Carolina’s Punjabi-American community while pursuing his career goals in healthcare.

Sheppard is a senior Public Health major in the SCHC. She will be studying Urdu in Lucknow, India. As a former recipient of the Boren Undergraduate Scholarship for Urdu study, Sheppard is excited to continue her language studies in India. Her time abroad will help her towards a career working in the health and human rights fields within the federal government.  

Smith is a freshman SCHC Carolina Scholar studying Mechanical Engineering. At UofSC, Smith is a member of USC Moksha, USC Bollywood Fusion Dance Team, and Engineers Without Borders. Additionally, she is researching hydrothermal carbonization of food waste with the civil engineering department. Smith is excited to show how her love of language learning compliments her career path of becoming an engineer focusing on renewable energy. She hopes to learn about how the environment is viewed across nations and bring her findings to her community. Smith will be studying Hindi in Jaipur, India.

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