Jessica McIlhenny ’11 Wins Critical Language Scholarship

Jessica Mcllhenny 2011 has won the Critical Language Program Scholarship.  A program of the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program offers intensive summer language institutes overseas in thirteen critical need foreign languages. Mcllhenny will travel to Washington D.C., for orientation and then to Turkey for two months of language classes. The program is the equivalent of taking a year of Turkish. She is the second Ursinus student to win a Critical Language Program Scholarship, Whitney Mayer 2012 learned earlier this year that she will study in China.

Jessica Mcllhenny 2011

“I will have class at least 20 hours a week and some mandator

y excursions,” she says.  “It’s a very intense and rewarding program where I will be learning, not only in the class room, but almost all the time with the other CLS participants, with my host family, at my learning institute, and with my peer tutor,” says Mcllhenny. “ Being given the opportunity to actually go to Turkey after studying it for so long is really rewarding. It’s going

to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With all the opportunities I will have overseas and when I get back home, I’m so thankful.”

As a Summer Fellow in 2010, Mcllhenny worked with Ambassador Melrose on the Turkish role on the National Security Council. Her Summer Fellows project expanded into a Distinguished Honors Project on Turkish politics. Then Professor Melrose introduced her to several contacts, including UC alumnus Aaron Ranck, who went to graduate school in Turkey.  “Aaron was extremely helpful in answering my questions, giving me resources, and sending me articles that would interest me. He also told me about the CLS program and encouraged me to apply if I was serious about learning Turkish. After studying Turkish politics that summer, I knew I wanted to continue studying this country and eventually learn the language,” says Mcllhenny.

The program provides for additional costs such as extra meals, local transportation, and travel to and from the host country. “It’s a really amazing experience with everything they provide and all the education I will be receiving,” she says. The scholarship allows her to pursue a passion for Turkish language and culture that began when she was in high school. During her freshman year at Ursinus, she took Middle Eastern History. And when she went abroad to France, Mcllhenny had an internship with a research-based institute and had to submit a research paper at the end of the semester. “I wrote about some of the European Court of Human Rights cases that focused on the veiling of Muslim women – one of which was Leyla ?ahin v. Turkey.  When it was time to think about Summer Fellows, I knew that I wanted to work on something that allowed me to explore Turkey more in-depth. I was fascinated by how the Turkish government seemed to play more of an international role in the world. I explored for Summer Fellows and for my distinguished honors project why it has taken on a more international role within global politics.”

Her experience studying Turkish politics at Ursinus and participating in the CLS program have shaped her goals. “Going to Izmir, Turkey, this summer is a great next step to take after studying this country for a year,” she says. “Learning the language will be a great tool for me to use to expand my studies of the country. I’m hoping to come back from Turkey and getting more involved with the Turkish community in Philadelphia. Hopefully, I’ll start a book club in Philadelphia when I return that focuses on Turkish literature, history, and culture.” By K.C.