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Prestigious scholarships fund study abroad for UNG students

This semester, several UNG students have won or were named finalists for nationally competitive scholarships, including several who won scholarships to fund study abroad opportunities. Pictured above: Front row, from left, Darion Gibson, Gilman International Scholarship; UNG President Bonita Jacobs; Cody Bijeaux-Fulbright Scholarship; Lyric Jones-Critical Languages Scholarship; second row, from left, David Hagler-Chinese Government Scholarship, Rachel Hastreiter-Woodrow Wilson STEM Teaching Scholarship, Anita Renfroe-Boren Scholarship; Jennifer Hightower-Fulbright finalist, Harvey-Woodrow Wilson STEM Teaching Scholarship; third row, from left, Matthew Preston-Gilman, Elisha Weber-Chinese Government Scholarship, Christal Martinez-Gilman.

Students studying one of the 10 languages offered at the University of North Georgia (UNG) continue to excel academically, earning a number of competitive national scholarships to further their studies abroad.

Lyric Jones, a student in UNG's Chinese Language Flagship Program, has been awarded a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study abroad in China this summer, making her the first UNG student recipient.

CLS is a program of the U.S. Department of State that is a fully-funded overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. With the goal of broadening the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries, CLS provides opportunities to a diverse range of students at every level of language learning. 

"Lyric’s perseverance and determination in pursuing this incredibly competitive scholarship speaks to her character and intelligence, her commitment to international study, and to the rigorous training she’s received as part of UNG’s Chinese Flagship Program," said Anastasia Lin, associate professor of English and assistant dean of Student Research and Scholarship at UNG.

Graduates of the Language Flagship program are prepared to take their place among the next generation of global professionals by bringing a superior level of proficiency in Chinese to their work and contributing their skills to U.S. competitiveness and national security.

"I'm looking forward to immersing myself in the Chinese culture for the summer. This will be my second time studying in China, but I will be going to a different city, so I am both excited and anxious for the new experience," Jones said. "This is a great opportunity that never would have been possible without the help of faculty who were extremely helpful during the intense CLS application process."

The CLS is an exceedingly competitive scholarship that selected only 550 students last year out of 5,500 applications. A second UNG student, Theresa Kim, a junior majoring in art, was selected as a CLS finalist.

Anita Renfroe, who participated in UNG's Federal Service Language Academy as a high school student, is a winner of the prestigious David L. Boren Scholarship, a national scholarship funded by the U.S. Department of Defense's National Security Education Program worth up to $20,000 for a recipient to spend a full academic year studying abroad. Renfroe is a junior member of the Corps of Cadets majoring in Arabic with a minor in Spanish and will spend next year studying in Fez, Morocco. She also was one of only 20 undergraduate students in the nation to be interviewed this year for the Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship with the U.S. Department of State and is a previous winner of the Gilman Scholarship.

"Anita's selection as a Boren scholar and Pickering finalist affirm what we already knew about her: She is a highly intelligent, curious and determined young scholar," Lin said. "She represents the ideal global leader our university seeks to cultivate and she serves as an example to other students of what persistence and hard work can accomplish." 

In exchange for funding, Boren Scholars commit to working in the federal government for at least one year after graduation, which has been a career goal for Renfroe.

"I have decided to serve my country in the civilian sector through a government agency. I am hoping to work for the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer," Renfroe said. "This summer, I have the opportunity to intern with the International Rescue Committee, a non-government agency that aids in the resettlement of refugees."

She next intends to apply for the Fulbright scholarship, but plans to pursue a master's degree in Middle Eastern and North African studies.

A second UNG student, Strauss Schoeman, was selected as a Boren alternate. He's a junior majoring in computer science.

Additionally, four UNG students were recipients this year of the Gilman International Scholarship, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Those awarded funds were: Christal Martinez, receiving $2,000 to study in Chile; Matthew Preston, $2,500 to study in Germany; Nicholas Salter, $3,500 to study in China; and Darion Gibson, $3,500 for an internship in China.

Salter also received an additional Freeman-Asia grant of up to $3,000 to support his study in Beijing this summer.

The scholarship recipients are among some two dozen UNG students who have been awarded nationally competitive scholarships to study abroad in the last three years. Students interested in learning more about nationally competitive scholarships should contact for more information. Also, students interested in learning about funding and programs to study abroad in a variety of projects can visit the Center for Global Engagement website.

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