UIC student, alumna selected for State Department Critical Language Scholarship
A graduate student and a recent graduate from the University of Illinois Chicago have been awarded the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship to participate in intensive foreign language programs this summer.
Erika Mei Chua Holum, a UIC graduate student in museum and exhibition studies with a concentration in Black studies, and Mona Zubi, who received a bachelor’s in public policy and minor in Russian from UIC in May, are among 700 competitively selected American students from 255 U.S. colleges and universities who received the award this year.
The Critical Language Scholarship Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Due to the global pandemic, their institutes are being offered as virtual programs.
Chua Holum, of Houston, is studying Indonesian through a program that also includes virtual site visits and talks with The Floating School and Fingertalk Cafe. Her research at UIC focuses on intimacies and interconnected art histories across the Indian Ocean. Her master’s thesis is focused on the work of Cape Town-based artist Thania Petersen’s 2015 photographic series “I AM ROYAL.”
“I traced the construction and articulation of Cape Malay identity and history following the enslavement and forced displacement from Southeast Asia to South Africa during Dutch colonial imperialism. Indonesian is one of the many languages spoken throughout the Indian Ocean region, and in the future, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. and apply my research within the field of museums and exhibitions as a writer, researcher, and curator,” said Chua Holum, who currently holds positions with the Chicago Public Library system and the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago.
Past projects and exhibitions by Chua Holum include Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2020), the Second Edition of the Lagos Biennial in Nigeria (2019), Obscura Festival of Photography in Malaysia (2018), and the European Cultural Academy at the 57th Venice Biennale of Art. She taught in Malaysia as a Fulbright grantee in 2018.
Zubi, of Granite City, Illinois, is studying Russian through a virtual program based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She first became interested in studying Russian in 2017 after studying in Tajikistan on a National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship to study Tajiki, a dialect of Farsi. Her affinity for the language grew through her UIC courses.
“Tajikistan is one of several countries in Central Asia that were formerly under the Soviet Union. While Central Asia now celebrates 30 years of independence since the fall of the U.S.S.R., Russian influence is still very strong, both politically and socially. While in Tajikistan, I recognized the importance of knowing Russian in Central Asia,” said Zubi, a former Honors College member. “My Critical Language Scholarship experience has already tremendously improved my Russian language skills, and taught me a lot about Kyrgyzstan.”
With forthcoming plans to work as a teacher’s assistant in Chicago, she plans to pursue fluency in Russian with a career goal of working in Central Asia in education and post-colonial development. She was recently selected as a Fulbright alternate to potentially serve as an English teaching assistant in Tajikistan.
UIC’s Office of External Fellowships provides advising and assistance to current undergraduate and professional school students in finding and applying for a range of nationally and internationally competitive fellowships, scholarships, and grants.