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Three Boston College Students Awarded Critical Language Scholarships by U.S. State Department


CHESTNUT HILL, MA (May 2012) – Three students from Boston College have been awarded  U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarships (CLS) for intensive foreign language study abroad as part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages.  The CLS awardees from Boston College are undergraduate Brooke Loughrin and graduate students Bennett Comerford and Gary Winslett.

More than 5,200 undergraduate and graduate students applied for Critical Language Scholarships. The BC students are among this year’s 631 CLS recipients, representing all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and 239 institutions of higher education. Over the summer, CLS recipients will spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language study and structured cultural enrichment experiences in 14 countries mastering Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, or Urdu languages. CLS Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

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Brooke Loughrin

Loughrin is a Boston College Presidential Scholar and rising junior who will travel to Dushanbe, Tajikistan to study Persian.  According to Loughrin, the CLS Persian program covers approximately one academic year of university-level Persian coursework during the eight-week program, including five hours of language instruction per day. Scholars also will participate in cultural excursions and community activities designed to enhance the language learning curriculum and students' understanding of the Tajiki host culture.

Loughrin said she is interested in further developing her Persian language skills to enhance her study of Iranian culture, history and politics.  In 2010, she traveled to Iran with a delegation from the United Nations Association to interview Iranian female poets about the influence of women’s poetry on the country’s women’s movement.

At BC, Loughrin helped to start the Boston College Iranian Culture Club and will serve as editor-in-chief of Al-Noor: The Boston College Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Journal. She plans to pursue graduate work in Iranian Studies and hopes to work for the U.S. Department of State as a foreign service officer.

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Bennett Comerford

Comerford is a graduate student pursuing a master of divinity degree in the School of Theology and Ministry. His interests are Hindu-Christian comparative theology and interreligious dialogue. He will travel to Bangladesh and study the Bangla/Bengali language. 

“Bangla is an interesting language to me because it is spoken in Bangladesh, which is predominately Muslim, and West Bengal, India, which is predominately Hindu,” said Comerford, who will remain in Bangladesh after the CLS Program concludes to conduct research on religious violence and interreligious dialogue. His research project is sponsored by a Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice grant.

Comerford plans to earn a Ph.D. in comparative theology or south Asian religions, and go on to teach or participate in interreligious dialogue and human rights work that engages the region of greater Bengal. 

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Gary Winslett

Winslett, a doctoral student in the Political Science Department, is also a graduate fellow at BC’s Clough Center for Constitutional Democracy. He will conduct Turkish language training in Ankara, Turkey.

“I am learning Turkish because I study Turkish foreign policy and want to be able to do research in Turkey,” said Winslett.

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 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 and American Councils for International Education.

--Kathleen Sullivan, Office of News & Public Affairs