2 UTC Students Awarded National Scholarships

  • Tuesday, April 23, 2024
UTC students Vinny Nguyen, left, and Lauren Graves are the recipients of national competitive scholarships
UTC students Vinny Nguyen, left, and Lauren Graves are the recipients of national competitive scholarships
photo by Peyton Schultz/UTC
A pair of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students have created paths to learning new languages after landing national competitive scholarships.
 
Lauren Graves, a senior English major and Brock Scholar in the UTC Honors College, will soon be heading to Japan as part of the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, which brings university graduates to Japan as assistant language teachers.
 
Vinny Nguyen, a sophomore political science and public service major, is the recipient of the CLS Spark scholarship.
He will spend eight weeks in an online course learning Mandarin Chinese, a language the program deemed “essential to America’s engagement with the world.”
 
“Both scholarships facilitate that two-way transfer of cultural exchange,” said Dr. Trey Straussberger, director of the UTC Office of National Scholarships. “Lauren is going to go to Japan and learn more about Japanese culture and learn the Japanese language, but then she’s going to bring back that knowledge and share it in her community—facilitating those sustainable connections between the United States and places abroad.
 
“Vinny has always taken the initiative to push his boundaries and seize opportunities,” Dr. Straussberger continued. “He’s got a knack for languages.”
 
Ms. Graves, a graduate of First Baptist Academy in Knoxville, said she has experience traveling with the Honors College and UTC Choral program, but this is her first lengthy trip abroad.
 
“I feel like I keep oscillating back and forth between, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m so excited’ and ‘Oh my goodness, I’m about to be so far away from everything that is familiar,’” Ms. Graves said.
 
Dr. Straussberger said the JET program sees foreign language teachers as cultural ambassadors.
 
“I think the program is one of those crucial parts of American diplomacy and foreign relations,” he said, “and I think Lauren is going to be a great ambassador.”
 
Dr. Straussberger also said cultural exchange and global engagement resonate deeply with Mr. Nguyen.
 
CLS Spark is a precursor to the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program, providing students with formal language experience before studying abroad. Straussberger said most students who participate in the CLS Spark eventually qualify for acceptance into the CLS program.
 
“It sets students up for the Critical Language Scholarship where you actually go abroad for a year,” he said.
 
Mr. Nguyen grew up in Chattanooga, graduating from Lookout Valley High School in 2022.
 
The CLS Spark, he said, will help him in his future career.
 
“I want to work for the foreign service with the federal government for national security and economic prosperity,” Mr. Nguyen said. “Mandarin is going to be a very big asset, especially if I want to work in Asian affairs or in Pacific affairs.”
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