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Four West Virginia University Women Awarded Critical Language Scholarships

All are students or alumna of the Eberly College

Four West Virginia University women have been awarded the Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State, recognizing their commitment to language learning and personal growth. The awardees will participate in fully-funded virtual intensive language and cultural immersion programs this summer.

Valerie Browne smiling
Valerie Browne

Valerie Browne, a rising senior from Martinsburg, will spend this summer studying Russian. Browne is a Russian studies and English double major with a minor in political science in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

“I chose to study Russian both to further connect with my Eastern European heritage and to help me achieve my goals of translating Russian literature and working for the U.S. Department of State,” Browne said.

Jana El-Khatib is a Master of Business Administration student in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics from Hurricane. [Editor's note: El-Khatib received her bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in Arabic studies from the Eberly College in 2019.] She hopes to use the skills gained from this scholarship to improve her cultural competency for her future career as a healthcare provider. El-Khatib will study Indonesian this summer, a language she became interested in after spending time living in South East Asia as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.

Jana El-Khatib smiling
Jana El-Khatib

“While living in a rural town in Malaysia, I couldn’t rely solely on English to get by. I was motivated to learn the language in order to connect with the students, teachers, and other community members who were so welcoming and hospitable,” El-Khatib said.

El-Khatib said she is excited to learn the differences between the Malaysian and Indonesian languages and plans to continue her language study following the program, keeping in contact with native speakers. Upon finishing her MBA, Jana will begin dental school at WVU.

Christina Murray, a WVU alumna from Fairmont who majored in international studies in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, will study Persian this summer. Murray was previously awarded the Critical Language Scholarship to study Persian during the summer of 2020; however, this opportunity was cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Christina Murray smiling
Christina Murray

“Language study is crucial to understanding the rich history and culture of the Middle East and Central Asia. I am excited to further develop my knowledge of the region and its extensive history through studying Persian," Murray said.

Murray has been accepted to Georgetown University to begin her Master of Arts in Arab Studies. She will defer her start date to 2022 because she was recently awarded the CASA@AUC scholarship for fall 2021. This scholarship will allow Murray to study Arabic at the American University in Cairo.

Margaret Rymer, a junior from Garland, Texas, majoring in international studies and history with the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, will study Russian.

“I really wanted to study Russian because the culture and history is so unique and I hope to one day get to live and work in that part of the world,” Rymer said.

Margaret Rymer smiling
Margaret Rymer

The Critical Language Scholarship is a highly competitive and prestigious program that typically provides a fully funded summer 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, the Critical Language Scholarship provides opportunities to a diverse range of students from across the United States at every level of language learning.

Although the program normally sends scholars to study within a host country, this year’s institutes will all occur virtually for the safety of students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"These four students have persevered through so many challenges over the past year, making their selection as Critical Language Scholarship recipients all the more impressive,” said Cate Johnson, assistant director of the ASPIRE Office. “COVID caused many who focus on student engagement with education abroad to worry that students would become disengaged and uninterested in these opportunities. The selection of our four students as CLS Scholars underscores our students’ commitment to learning and engaging with others in an effort to build a more inclusive global community.”

Students who are interested in this scholarship or other nationally competitive awards can contact the ASPIRE Office at to set up an appointment.