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Prasiddha Sudhakar standing outside of Hamburg Hall.

Prasiddha Sudhakar Selected for 2024 Critical Language Scholarship

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Peter Kerwin
University Communications & Marketing

Prasiddha Sudhakar, a master's student at the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy(opens in new window), was selected for the 2024 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS). The immersive program will allow her to study Hindi through intensive study abroad.

The Critical Language Scholarship(opens in new window) is an extremely competitive program with an acceptance rate around 10%. It provides U.S. students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in languages and cultures critical to U.S. security and economic prosperity.

As an undergraduate at Rutgers University, Sudhakar was selected for a Public Policy and International Affairs(opens in new window) fellowship at Heinz College. She graduated from Rutgers in 2022 with a double major in computer science and economics, and a minor in critical intelligence studies. Throughout her academic and professional career, Sudhakar has worked diligently to show the importance of taking a global perspective on key societal issues.

As a civic technologist, she is interested in combating hate speech and misinformation. She currently serves as an analyst for the Network Contagion Research Institute(opens in new window), helping to track social issues that emerge on the Internet, conduct cyber forensics, and use datasets to identify inauthentic or harmful activity online. She has authored papers on anti-Hindu(opens in new window) and anti-Muslim(opens in new window) movements, and had her work featured in the Washington Post(opens in new window).

One area that Sudhakar found to be critical to both this work and her personal life was language. “I was born in the U.S., but I lived in six different countries growing up,” Sudhakar said. “I have an international background and this really shaped my worldview. I think that learning languages was always a big part of it.”

Speaking Tamil at home and already having experience studying French, Dutch, Spanish, German and Persian, she realized the importance of multilingual education from a young age. 

“It was something that was always an integral part of my life. You would be in a country where you don't know the language, so you'd have to pick it up at a very rapid pace.”

Sudhakar’s passion for language extended into her work. She realized that the Hindi language would be a crucial component in understanding the cultural dynamics shaping the online Indian communities that she now studies.

“When we think about bad actors or any kind of influence operations, a lot of the research is limited to the English language. What really interests me is how this type of knowledge can be used to inform trust and safety teams within Big Tech companies about the challenges that they may face.”

Sudhakar, who comes from an Indian and Hindu background, noted that the scholarship also has personal meaning for her. “Being able to reconnect with my heritage in some way, like being able to learn Hindi, is something I've wanted to do since I was a child. I’m really excited and thankful for the opportunity to do that.”

Sudhakar said that the support and assistance of Paige Zalman(opens in new window), associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholar Development(opens in new window) (OURSD) at Carnegie Mellon, was key to her success navigating the application process. 

“She really guided me through this whole process and I don't think I would have achieved this scholarship without her,” Sudhakar said.

OURSD provides support to students in locating funding, finding scholarships and fellowships, and preparing for interviews. 

“I was so impressed by her dedication to the process, and I was truly overjoyed when we found out that she had been selected for the award,” Zalman said. ”Not only will her important research be bolstered by her intensive Hindi study this summer, but I am certain that she will also make a lasting impact on the other members of her CLS cohort due to her linguistic skill, cultural empathy and kind heart.”

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