June 14, 2010

Cruitt receives Critical Language Scholarship

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Anthony Cruitt, a December 2009 graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is a recipient of a U. S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.

Cruitt will spend more than two months in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he will study the Azerbaijani language. The immersion program includes four or five hours of classroom instruction five days a week in language acquisition, with weekend cultural expeditions.

“I will be immersed in the language and culture on my own and sort of forced to learn it whatever way I can,” Cruitt said, adding that he will live with a host family during his stay.

“The reason for this program is that Azerbaijani is a language that the State Department has deemed a ‘critical language’ and is hoping to create a larger population of American speakers of Azerbaijani,” he said

According to the U. S. Department of State, the 2010 CLS Program received nearly 5,300 applications for scholarships, and handed out 575 of them for students wishing to learn “critical languages” such as Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Russian, four Indic languages and two Turkic languages, including Azerbaijani. Scholarship recipients receive funding and support for the summer program. In return, the State Department expects the students to continue their language acquisition, and to use their new foreign language skills in their future careers.

Cruitt, a native of Sullivan, Ill., said his military background contributed to his decision to learn a language deemed critical by the Department of State. Cruitt was active in the Marines from 2002 to 2007, and was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005.

He came to SIUC in 2007 as a political science major with a specialization in international affairs and a minor in speech communication. While at SIUC, Cruitt was active at the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, especially with after-school recreation and sports.

“My focus for the last year at SIUC was Russian politics, specifically a study of the security of the Caucasus region (including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the southern Russian republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia),” he said. “I applied for the CLS program so I could spend the summer learning first hand about the language, culture and people of the region I have been studying, and will continue to study.”

Cruitt left for Azerbaijan early in June, and expects to return in mid-August.

He is no travel-abroad novice. Besides informal backpacking trips in Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy, and visits to several Middle Eastern countries as a Marine, he studied abroad in Prague in 2008 through Georgetown University. He begins graduate school at Dartmouth College this fall.

The CLS Program is administered by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers and the American Councils for International Education. The CLS Program is part of efforts by the U. S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs “to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”