Mercer senior awarded Critical Language Scholarship to study Azerbaijani

headshot of alexander john paul lutz
Alexander John Paul Lutz. Photo by Bekah Howard

MACON — Mercer University senior Alexander John Paul Lutz was recently awarded a Critical Language Scholarship by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to study Azerbaijani in Azerbaijan this summer. 

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. With the goal of broadening the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries, the CLS Program provides opportunities to a diverse range of students from across the U.S. at every level of language learning. 

Lutz — an international affairs, political science and history triple-major and religion and public diplomacy minor — will study at the Azerbaijan University of Languages in Baku from June 12 to Aug. 9.  

“This is a wonderful opportunity to cultivate hard and soft skills — namely foreign language proficiency and communication across lines of difference — that will prove invaluable to me as I seek to engage in peacebuilding work in the South Caucasus (a region along the border of eastern Europe and western Asia) with a nongovernmental organization or the Department of State in the future,” he said. “I am honored to have been selected for the Critical Language Scholarship and hope to make the most of it.” 

Lutz’s interest in the Azerbaijani language began during a 2021 Mercer On Mission trip to Georgia, where he helped young Azerbaijani-Georgians in the south of the country practice speaking English. These conversations gave him insight into the complexities of identity in the South Caucasus. 

“Motivated by a conviction to build bridges, break barriers and oppose injustice in all its forms, I hope to draw on my background in peacebuilding to advocate on behalf of the Azerbaijani-Georgian community, to work toward bridging the ethnic and religious divides that afflict the South Caucasus, and to prove to people like the Azerbaijani-Georgians that their identities are valid and worthy of celebration,” he said. 

As a future peacebuilder, he said he wants to better understand religious conflicts and challenge the misuse of religion by people who seek to provoke violence and hatred for political gain. 

Lutz, of Peachtree Corners, is a graduate of Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs. 

At Mercer, he is president of Bears Engaged Across Religions and the Mercer International Affairs Organization, head delegate of Mercer’s Model Arab League team, and an associate justice of the Undergraduate Honor Council. He is a recipient of the Cox Scholarship for Excellence in Political Science; T. Raleigh Mann Scholarship for Academic Excellence, Campus Leadership and School Spirit; and Rick Love Young Innovators in Peacebuilding Award.  

He also has been named the recipient of the Walter C. Dowling Award for Excellence in International Studies, Carlos T. Flick Award for Outstanding Historical Research and Writing, and Phi Alpha Theta Outstanding Senior in History Award. 

After graduation, he plans to attend Harvard Divinity School to obtain a Master of Theological Studies with a concentration in religion, ethics and politics. He has been offered a Harvard Divinity School Dean’s Fellowship, which includes a full-tuition scholarship and annual stipend. 

The CLS Program is offered in 14 languages, including Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu. 

The program seeks participants with diverse interests, and from a wide range of fields of study and career paths, with the purpose of representing the full diversity of the U.S. Participants are selected based on their commitment to language learning and plans to apply their language skills to their future academic or professional pursuits. 

About Mercer University 

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. With approximately 9,000 students enrolled in 12 schools and colleges, on major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; medical school sites in Macon, Savannah and Columbus; and at regional academic centers in Henry and Douglas counties, Mercer is ranked among the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report. The Mercer Health Sciences Center includes the University’s School of Medicine and Colleges of Nursing, Health Professions and Pharmacy. Mercer is affiliated with five teaching hospitals – Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare in Columbus. The University also has an educational partnership with Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer Medicine, the clinical faculty practice of the School of Medicine, is based in Macon and operates additional clinics in Sumter, Peach, Clay, Putnam and Harris counties. Mercer is one of only 293 institutions nationwide to shelter a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society; one of eight institutions to hold membership in the Georgia Research Alliance; and the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit