Augustana Student Selected as 2020 Critical Language Scholarship Program Award Winner

Augustana University student Kristina Ritschard ‘20, was selected for a prestigious 2020 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program award as an Urdu language ambassador. Ritschard, a nursing and modern foreign language double major, is the first student from the university to secure this scholarship.

“The CLS is highly competitive, with only a few hundred awardees each year in the entire country. Students who earn the CLS learn languages of critical importance to our nation, preparing them to serve our nation and the world in unique and important ways,” said Dr. David O’Hara, campus advisor for the Critical Language Scholarship Program, as well as chair and associate professor of the religion/philosophy/classics department.

Augustana offers majors in Spanish, French, German and American Sign Language, as well as additional courses in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Students also study other languages in courses abroad, including Arabic and Maya Itzá. The university's CLS Program campus advisors seek to supplement these offerings by helping students pursue instruction in less commonly taught languages.

The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. The program provides a summer study abroad opportunity for American college and university students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world.

Each summer, CLS provides rigorous academic instruction in 15 languages that are critical to America's national security and economic prosperity. CLS participants are citizen ambassadors, sharing American values and promoting American influence abroad. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period, and later apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

Ritschard said, “My interest in language learning began at a young age as a Swiss-American citizen. While I majored in nursing at Augustana, I wanted to continue studying languages and culture through the Modern Foreign Language Program. I studied German and Spanish through courses at Augie, and also became interested in Urdu through my friendships with Pakistani students on campus. I chose to apply to CLS Urdu because I wanted to learn more about Pakistani and Indian culture and challenge myself to learn a completely new language and alphabet. As a nursing student, I have seen how important language is to providing compassionate and quality patient care. My hope is that I can continue language learning and incorporate it into my career as a nurse, to best serve the populations in the United States that need quality healthcare the most.”

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 CLS Programs have been canceled or shifted online. If not for the limited ability of Americans to travel and students to participate in study abroad programs, the Loveland, Colorado native would have departed for Lucknow, India, where she would have lived with a host family and studied Urdu at the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) for a month, beginning on June 14.

Dr. Joseph Patteson, campus advisor for the Critical Language Scholarship Program and assistant professor in the department of modern foreign languages, said, "Although the virus got in the way of things this year, these students have achieved something really impressive that deserves a prominent place on resumes and job letters, and they will have special consideration if they apply again in the future."

Augustana’s Jack Talcott ‘21, was selected as an alternate Hindi language ambassador. Talcott of Brandon, South Dakota, is majoring in philosophy, history, as well as government/international affairs.

Media Inquiries: Contact Jill Wilson, public relations and communications strategist.