State Department awards Critical Language Scholarship to Layali Awadallah to study Russian

portrait of Layli Awadallah
Layali Awadallah

Two days from the Nov. 15 deadline, freshman accounting student Layali Awadallah applied for the competitive Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), an immersive eight-week summer program through the U.S. Department of State that provides intensive instruction in 14 languages crucial to the United States’ engagement with the world.

Only 10% of more than 5,000 applicants received the award. Awadallah was one of them.

“I was studying for my exams and I got an email,” Awadallah says. “I was so happy I stopped studying, which I rarely do because midterms were the next day, and I ran downstairs to tell everybody.”

A Detroit native, Awadallah chose to study accounting at the Mike Ilitch School of Business because “the class sizes at the business school are much more personal, which is important for me because I want to bond with my professors.”

It was, after all, a professor who encouraged her to apply for the scholarship. Political Science Professor Kevin Deegan-Krause is Awadallah’s instructor for her Honors College “Changing Detroit” class, and the faculty coordinator of the Office of Fellowships, a program in the Office of International Programs that helps students find and apply for international fellowship opportunities.

“Layali was proactive in seeking out scholarships and fellowships, and she took all the right steps. She identified her scholarship, made connections with faculty members that produced strong letters of recommendation, and took care with her application,” said Deegan-Krause. “All of her efforts will keep paying off even after she is done with the Critical Language Scholarship. She built the skills and relationships that make a university education more meaningful, and open doors to great jobs and graduate school, as well as to a better more fulfilling life.”

Awadallah will study Russian as part of the CLS-Spark program, a remote version of the Critical Language Scholarship for people who have little to no experience in the language they wish to master. She will attend classes in the mornings, and dedicate her afternoons to intensive study.

“So, it’s basically like a job but I’m very excited,” explains Awadallah. “I just know it’s going to be a lot of projects, and I want to immerse myself and learn more about Russian and the culture.”

The program includes cultural instruction as well, which Awadallah is greatly looking forward to.

“I’m very excited for the cultural events because they’re going to show food, recipes, and some dances. That’s the one thing I’m looking forward to the most,” says Awadallah.

She chose Russian because it would advance her toward her future career ambitions.

“One of my professional goals is to become a forensic accountant, and learning Russian can be a great asset,” explains Awadallah. “Protecting the financial security of the nation is really cool. I just follow my curiosity and go with the flow.”

While Awadallah has specific plans for her Russian instruction, Deegan-Krause says these awards are beneficial to Wayne State students in particular in other ways. 

“Many of our students have been surrounded by a particular family language since childhood but have not been able to gain a more professional competency,” Deegan-Krause explains. “They know its cadence and have usage of daily life but they lack the writing skills, vocabulary and polish that they would need to take it to a professional level. Scholarships like CLS can fill that gap.”

The CLS class of 2023 has already been decided, but students interested in their own CLS or fellowship experience can head to the Office of Fellowships website to view international study options and start the process of applying for their own international fellowship experience.

--By Patrick Bernas, Office of International Programs editorial associate

The Office of Fellowships is part of the Office of International Programs, which leads Wayne State’s global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university’s global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP

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