Baylor Students Receive 'Critical Language Scholarships' to Study in Russia

By Paige Patton

Three Baylor University students - including one who has been awarded the prestigious honor for the second consecutive year - received Critical Language Scholarships to study in Russia during a two-month intensive program this summer.

Only 525 scholarships were given to more than 6,000 applicants by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

Gary Guadagnolo, a senior University Scholar from Arlington who graduated from Baylor on May 17, has received the Critical Language Scholarship two years in a row. This summer, studied Russian language and culture in a program similar to the one in St. Petersburg, but will be in Samara, a city in the southeastern part of the country.

Guadagnolo plans to spend the 2008-09 academic year studying in St. Petersburg to develop his fluency and pursue a doctorate degree in Russian history, which he plans to teach on the university level.

"I was very honored to receive this scholarship last year, and even more so to be given the chance to study through this program again this summer," he said. "I think the fact that Baylor has three students participating in the program this summer speaks to the high level of preparation that we have experienced in the classroom, and I hope that even more Baylor students will have the opportunity to participate in this scholarship, through Russian and other languages, in the future."

Sara Garrett, a senior University Scholar from Robinson, studied at a language school in Astrakhan--near the Caspian Sea--while living with a local family. She visited Volgograd, where the Battle of Stalingrad was fought in World War II.

"I'm absolutely thrilled to have a chance to go back and study in Russia," Garrett said. "I really enjoyed my time studying in Voronezh this fall, and I'm very excited to have a chance to experience a different part of the country. I think it's wonderful for Baylor's Russian program to have so many of us going."

Ross Irons, a junior German and Russian double major from Dallas, lived and study in Astrakhan and attend the state university there. He will spend the spring 2009 semester studying abroad in Freiburg, Germany.

Irons was initially placed on the alternate list of award recipients and found out at the last minute that he had been accepted to study in Russia.

Irons enjoyed being surrounded by "eclectic mix of more than 100 different nationalities and several different religious faiths" and improved his Russian, as all program participants are required to speak only the native language.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the CAORC, the Critical Language Scholarships Program was launched in 2006. In its inaugural year, the Program offered intensive overseas study in the critical need foreign languages of Arabic, Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu. In 2007, Chinese, Korean, Persian and Russian institutes were added along with increased student capacity in the inaugural language institutes.

To apply for the program, the students provided extensive information about their academic performance, honors, language courses and previous study abroad experience. They also had to answer essay questions and submit letters of recommendation.

The eight-week program covers all travel expenses, housing costs and program fees and offers concurrent course credit.

As part of the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), the Department of State Critical Language Scholarships will provide funding for U.S. citizen undergraduate, master's and Ph.D. students to participate in beginning, intermediate and advanced level summer language programs at American Overseas Research Centers and affiliated partners. Recipients of these scholarships are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period and later apply their critical language skills in their professional careers.

More information about the Critical Language Scholarships can be found at