OPE: Office of Postsecondary Education
Current Section
International Education Programs Service

Meeting National Needs With Language and Area/International Studies Fellowships

Archived Information

For five decades graduate students who are citizens, permanent residents, or nationals of the United States have received Federal funding for foreign language and area or international studies. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships Program grants academic year and summer fellowships to universities and colleges to assist graduate students in foreign language and either area or international studies. According to the Department, the goals of the fellowship program include: (1) assisting in the development of knowledge, resources, and trained personnel for modern foreign language and area/international studies; (2) stimulating the attainment of foreign language acquisition and fluency; and (3) developing a pool of international experts to meet national needs. The profiles that follow provide examples of former fellowship recipients whose language and area or international studies led them to diverse career paths that exemplify the goals of the fellowship program.

Dr. Franklin Huffman began his graduate studies in linguistics and Asian Studies at Cornell University in 1960. While a graduate student he received National Defense Foreign Language (NDFL) Fellowships, the pre-cursor to today's Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, for the study of the Thai (1961-1963) and Burmese (1963-64) languages. His interest in Southeast Asian languages led him to focus on Cambodian, a major Southeast Asian language for which there was no published grammar, for his doctoral dissertation research. His dissertation research was supported by an ED Fulbright-Hays award during 1964-66.

With his language and area studies expertise Dr. Huffman’s long and distinguished academic and diplomatic career began with a faculty appointment at Yale University in 1967 in the Department of Southeast Asian Languages and Literature. He later accepted a faculty position at Cornell University in 1972 in the Department of Linguistics, a position he held until 1985. During this period Dr. Huffman published nine books and numerous articles on Southeast Asian languages and linguistics including seminal materials for learning Cambodian and Vietnamese. Many of these materials are still on the market today and his English-Khmer dictionary is a classic in the field of Southeast Asian language studies.

In 1985 Dr. Huffman left his faculty position and began his diplomatic career by accepting a position as Deputy Policy Officer in the United States Information Agency’s Office of European Affairs in Washington, D.C. Over the following 15 years he held numerous diplomatic posts including: U.S. Embassy Press Attache in Rangoon, Burma; Director of the American Cultural Center in Marrakesh, Morocco; Director of Programs for the U.S. Information Service in Paris, France; and Counselor for Public Affairs in Cambodia, New Zealand, and Chad.

Dr. Huffman attributes his successful career in Southeast Asian studies to the support he received from the NDFL Fellowship Program and ED Fulbright-Hays award for dissertation research that came at a critical juncture in his academic training. At the time he received the NDFL support he had exhausted his personal resources and would have been unable to cover his educational expenses and thus continue to study. The funding allowed him to pursue his language and area studies, training that resulted in a distinguished career of academic and diplomatic service. Dr. Huffman is currently completing work on a book manuscript that documents his experiences during a six month-long motorcycle trip from Laos to England during the first half of 1958. He now lives in Washington, D.C. where he continues his writing and consulting.

Other former fellowship holders pursued careers with governmental and non-governmental organizations that focus on addressing the needs of the world’s poor. Dr. Beth Dunford, for example, received FLAS support to study Arabic (1996-1999) from the Center for Advanced Study of International Development and Women and International Development Program at Michigan State University. During her graduate studies, Dr. Dunford focused on issues of international development and natural resource management in North and West Africa. She completed her master’s degree in 1999 and her doctoral dissertation on natural resource management in Eastern Mauritania in 2003.

Dr. Dunford’s international and Arabic language studies provided her with the skills necessary for a career as an international development practitioner. During 2000-2001 she lived in Bangladesh and served as a monitoring and evaluation coordinator for World Vision’s Food Security Enhancement Initiative. In this position she designed and implemented a monitoring and evaluation system for a five-year food security project that was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2002, Dr. Dunford returned to the United States and was hired by the Academy for Educational Development (AED) as a monitoring and evaluation specialist for a food and nutrition technical assistance project. Her experience in these positions led to her being hired as a Food for Peace Officer by USAID in 2002-2003. In this position Dr. Dunford served as the Deputy Humanitarian Food Coordinator on the Southern Africa Action Team that was set up to respond to famine and food shortfalls in six countries in southern Africa. Currently, Dr. Dunford heads the USAID Office of Assests and Livelihood Transition in Ethiopia. As Chief, her responsibilities include managing over $250 million of emergency development assistance yearly. This assistance met over 50 percent of the food needs for over 14 million Ethiopians threatened with famine in 2003.

FLAS support provided Dr. Dunford with the international studies and language training necessary to embark on her career as an international development practitioner. As a result of her training, she has been employed by various organizations, including the U.S. government, where she has made a positive impact on the lives of poor people in the world.

Dr. Brian Silver is the Urdu Service Chief for Voice of America (VOA) in Washington, D.C. Dr. Silver’s career also illustrates how Federal fellowship funds have supported the development of a cadre of specialists to meet national needs. VOA is an international multimedia broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government whose news, informational, educational, and cultural programs reach over 96 million listeners throughout the world. Urdu is one of the 44 languages in which VOA produces programming and can be accessed on the Web at: www.voanews.com/urdu/.

After graduating from Harvard College in 1964, Dr. Silver was awarded a Fulbright grant to travel to India to study sitar. He returned to the United States. in 1966 to pursue his interests in South Asian studies at the University of Chicago and began his graduate studies. He received a National Defense Foreign Language (NDFL) Fellowship, the pre-cursor to today's Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, for the study of Urdu from 1966-1969 from the South Asia Center. Dr. Silver earned his Ph.D. in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations where he studied Urdu language as well as South Asian culture, literature, history and music. He has taught Urdu language and literature, Indian music, South Asian culture, and World music at the University of Minnesota, the University of Chicago, Harvard University, Duke University, and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.

Dr. Silver is internationally recognized as an expert in the Urdu language and South Asian culture. For example, he was a senior music consultant for two major award-winning National Public Radio series; the ten-part "Word of Islam," and the ten-part "Passages to India." In addition to his teaching he has guest lectured at many colleges and universities in the United States and abroad and has numerous publications on South Asian, Iranian, and Middle Eastern music and musical culture. He is also an accomplished performer on the sitar and has performed nationally and internationally.

The former fellowship awardees profiled above highlight the diverse career paths available to those with language and area or international studies expertise. In all three cases Federal fellowship support provided the training that resulted in the development of knowledge, resources and trained personnel for modern foreign language and area studies. In addition, the funding stimulated the attainment of foreign language acquisition and fluency for the recipients. And finally, these individuals represent experts who meet our national needs. These individuals are only a few of the many thousands who have received fellowship support and successfully fulfilled the goals of the fellowship program.



Last Modified: 01/21/2011