University of Pittsburgh
May 26, 2016

2016 Critical Language Scholarships

Eight University of Pittsburgh students will spend the summer abroad, receiving language instruction and conducting cultural enrichment projects

Anthony Moore


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PITTSBURGH—Eight University of Pittsburgh students have been awarded 2016 Critical Language Scholarships from the U.S. Department of State. Pitt’s scholars—composed of three graduate students and five undergraduates—will spend this summer in the countries of Azerbaijan, China, Indonesia, Tajikistan, and Tanzania.

A part of the U.S. government’s efforts to expand foreign language fluency, the Critical Language Scholarship Program supports language instruction and cultural enrichment projects abroad. Recipients, who already have some level of fluency in their scholarship language, typically spend eight to ten weeks in their host countries, honing reading and speaking skills. Scholars are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their language skills in their professional careers.

Pitt has had 38 Critical Language Scholars since the award’s founding in 2007. For 2016, Pitt’s eight scholars are among the more than 550 individuals—representing 48 states and more than 200 educational institutions—to receive the honor.

Pitt’s 2016 Critical Language Scholars come from the University’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Swanson School of Engineering. Biographical information on each scholar follows:

Nicholas R. Caskey, of Romulus, N.Y., will study Farsi at the American Councils for International Education in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. A student in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Caskey focuses on governance and security issues in Central Asian and Middle Eastern countries in his research. As a veteran of the U.S. Navy, he served in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he oversaw more than 40 service personnel and interpreters and earned medals for heroism and meritorious service.

Emilie R. Coakley, of Lexington, Mass., will study Indonesian at the State University of Malang in Malang, Indonesia. A graduate student studying ethnomusicology, she also is a recipient of Pitt’s Indo-Pacific Graduate Student Research Grant. Her previous experiences in Indonesia have been through a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Grant and a Southeast Asia Fund Award. Coakley plans to use this summer’s cultural enrichment opportunity to study the practice of Indonesian Christian music.

Alexis T. Crossland, of Rochester, Pa., will study Chinese at the Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China. Her experiences with that nation include a six-month intensive language program at the Beijing Foreign Studies University during the spring and summer of 2015. A senior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese and environmental studies, Crossland hopes to pursue a career working on energy and environmental issues within China.

Steven R. Moon, of Cranberry Township, Pa., will study Turkish at the Azerbaijan University of Languages in Baku, Azerbaijan. A graduate student in ethnomusicology, he also is a recipient of Pitt’s Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship and has been a member of the Society for Ethnomusicology since 2014. Moon will use the Critical Language Scholarship to study gender and sexual identity in Turkish culture.

Andrew C. Nitz, of Upper Darby Township, Pa., will study Turkish at the Azerbaijan University of Languages in Baku, Azerbaijan. A senior pursuing a Bachelors of Arts degree in Russian, his previous honors include Pitt’s Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship. In the summer of 2015, he participated in an intensive Turkish language program in Istanbul. This summer, Nitz plans to further develop his professional fluency in order to pursue a career as an interpreter.

Roisin O’Dowd, of Stroudsburg, Pa., will study Persian at the American Councils for International Education in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. A junior majoring in molecular biology, she has previously been honored with Pitt’s Brackenridge Research Fellowship and Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s NPHS-STEM Undergraduate Scholarship. O’Dowd hopes the Critical Language Scholarship will enable her to explore the cultures and global health issues of the Middle East.

Ashley N. Saxe, of Omaha, Neb., will study Swahili while working with the nonprofit organization Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke Training Centre for Development Cooperation in Arusha, Tanzania. She is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in rehabilitation science. She has previously studied community development at the University of Iringa in Tanzania during the summer of 2015. Saxe aspires to work as a physical therapist in East African nations.

Zoe Toigo, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., will study Mandarin at Soochow University in Suzhou, China. A sophomore majoring in electrical engineering, she has previously been honored with Pitt’s Merit Scholarship and the Outstanding Student Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Toigo hopes this will be the first of many bioengineering research endeavors in China throughout her collegiate and professional career.



Nicholas R. Caskey

Emilie R. Coakley

Alexis T. Crossland

Steven R. Moon

Andrew C. Nitz

Roisin O’Dowd

Zoe Toigo

Ashley N. Saxe