Carnegie Mellon University

Roni Sosis

June 03, 2020

Rising Junior Awarded Critical Language Scholarship

By Heidi Opdyke

Abby Simmons
  • Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 412-268-6094
Jason Maderer
  • Marketing and Communications
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Roni Sosis, a rising junior at Carnegie Mellon University, has won a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS). 

In a normal year, Sosis would be heading abroad for eight to 10 weeks while studying Arabic, one of 15 languages the program supports students to study. This year, 2020 summer trips have been suspended in accordance with government travel advisories related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Although CLS has had to suspend in-country programming due to COVID-19, Roni will be able to participate in virtual programming and earn CLS Alumni status, which includes federal hiring preferences, said Richelle Bernazzoli, associate director of Undergraduate Research and National Fellowships at CMU. "We are very excited for them."

CMU has been home to 13 students who have been awarded 15 Critical Language Scholarships since the program's inception in 2008. Susan Polanksy, head of the Modern Languages Department said that the awards have been very meaningful to the recipients. 

"What an important opportunity the CLS Program offers to students to build on their already impressive skills and experiences as passionate learners," Polansky said. "Study of additional languages and engagement with other cultures open ways to learn more about oneself and others, and to gain understanding of diverse perspectives. How crucial these abilities are in our linguistically and culturally complex world!"

Grantees will be allowed to reapply for the next cycle for travel, as well. Because the program is remote, Sosis, who is dual majoring in global studies and creative writing with an Arabic Studies minor, is working on a novel about a queer Jewish boy struggling to fit in this summer with guidance from Sharon Dilworth through the summer course "Fiction Workshop-Advancing Narratives." 

Joseph Schaefer, a Ph.D. student in second language acquisition and an Arabic instructor, encouraged Sosis to apply after seeing how their drive, passion and perspective opens others up to a more enlightened and harmonious view of the world.

"Roni is a dedicated learner, astute linguist, team player and brilliant thinker. They have proven themselves as someone especially concerned with all things related to constructive social engagements in their local community and internationally," Schaefer said. "Roni has mastered a formula for using their unique background to build social bridges, both locally and globally, with people who may initially see them as different but quickly learn otherwise."

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