Two Mercer students recognized by Critical Language Scholarship program

Prasad and Yusuf

MACON – Mercer University freshman Shaan Prasad was recently awarded a Critical Language Scholarship by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to study Punjabi this summer. Additionally, junior Sanaa Yusuf was named an alternate to study Urdu.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a fully-funded summer 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 provides opportunities to a diverse range of students from across the U.S. at every level of language learning.

This summer’s program will take place mostly virtually from June 14-Aug. 6 and will consist of 10 hours of face-to-face synchronous small group class sessions and 10-15 hours of activities, including individual feedback sessions with instructors, asynchronous instruction such as reviewing video recordings, cultural activities, individual and group homework assignments, directed independent study and regular meetings with a language partner for conversation practice.

“Being a finalist means a great deal to me. Being able to connect back to my roots and family is something I have wanted for so long, and the Critical Language Scholarship has given me the exceptional opportunity to do so,” said Prasad. “I would like to thank Ms. (Rebekah) Anaya for introducing me to this scholarship, Dr. (Cameron) Kunzelman for his advice and extensive assistance with preparing my application, as well as my high school teacher Mr. (Robert) McMaken for writing my letter of recommendation. Without them, this would not have been possible.”

Shaan Prasad
Shaan Prasad

Prasad, from Athens, is a biology major with minors in chemistry and global health studies on the premed track. He aspires to attend medical school, pursue a residency at a university affiliated hospital and serve underprivileged communities.

At Mercer, Prasad is involved with the Student National Medical Association Minority Association of Premedical Students, National Society of Leadership and Success, Crypto Club and Peace Corps Prep Program. He is a recipient of the Penfield Scholarship, has been named to the President’s List and was selected for the University’s Special Consideration Program for Medicine.

Sanaa Yusuf

Yusuf, from Fayetteville, is a neuroscience major on the premed track.

They are a former Mercer debater who won the Richard Rieke Speaker Award and second place in the junior varsity division at the National Parliamentary Debate Association championship in 2020. They are involved with Rainbow Connection, previously served as vice president of Common Ground and currently work on the Biology Department’s BEARPAWS team and as a peer mentor for the Mercer Firsts program.

Yusuf is a Penfield Scholars and has been named to the President’s and Dean’s lists.

“The Critical Language Scholars program is extremely competitive so being able to say that I’m an alternate is a bit baffling. More than 4,000 people applied from schools of all over the U.S. and its territories, so to conceptualize that my application stood out is empowering,” said Yusuf. “I owe a huge thank you to Dr. (David) Davis for introducing the scholarship to me, Dr. (Troy) Nash for writing my letter of recommendation and to Dr. (Cameron) Kunzelman for helping me with the application process. This experience has shown me how tangible it is to pursue study abroad programs as well as prioritize my personal goals in an academic setting. I’ll be looking for more opportunities in the coming months.”

The CLS Program is offered in 15 languages, including Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, 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 the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences serves as the academic cornerstone of one of America’s oldest and most distinctive institutions of higher learning. The oldest and largest of Mercer’s 12 schools and colleges, it is a diverse and vibrant community, enrolling more than 1,900 students, dedicated to learning and service through the practice of intellectual curiosity, respectful dialogue and responsible citizenry. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers majors in more than 30 areas of study, including more than a dozen pre-professional academic tracks, with classes taught by an outstanding faculty of scholars. In 2015, Mercer was awarded a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society that recognizes exceptional achievement in the arts and sciences. For more information, visit