UTEP Grad Student Earns Competitive Scholarship with U.S. Department of State
Last Updated on June 02, 2021 at 5:00 PM
Originally published June 02, 2021
By Jesse Martinez
Cameron Garcia, a student in UTEP's Master of Defense and Strategic Studies (DSS) Program in the Department of Criminal Justice, will have the opportunity to apply his passion for foreign languages, culture and history while gaining experience to become a U.S. diplomat, thanks to a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State.
The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an overseas language and cultural immersion opportunity that places students in an intensive eight- to 10-week set of activities designed to promote development of language skills that are critical to national security and economic prosperity.
“We are excited for Cameron to participate in this nationally competitive State Department program,” said Melanie Meinzer, Ph.D., director of The University of Texas at El Paso’s Office of Student Fellowships and Awards. “The Critical Language Scholarship program is a fantastic opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to gain proficiency in languages they will use in research and in their future careers.”
Meinzer said CLS is a good fit for students who have either studied abroad, are heritage speakers of CLS languages, or are interested in conducting research or studying abroad with other prestigious fellowship programs such as the Gilman and Boren Scholarships, or the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Garcia, who is earning his master’s degree in defense and strategic studies through UTEP Connect, will study Portuguese through an online program with the Federal University of Santa Catarina located in Florianópolis, Brazil. The CLS program, which runs from June to August, typically provides travel to a participating overseas institute, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the experience shifted to an online model.
“I am very honored and humbled to have the opportunity to represent UTEP,” Garcia said. “My experience with UTEP and UTEP Connect has been very positive, and I think a UTEP education can prepare you to take you wherever it is you want to go in life. I will always be grateful for the opportunity I had to study at UTEP.”
Although Garcia will not be able to physically attend the university in Brazil, he said he is looking forward to continuing to develop fluency in Portuguese and gain an understanding of Brazilian culture. In addition to the coursework, Garcia said he will have elective courses to choose from including Brazilian cuisine and capoeira, a Brazilian dance-like martial art. The program will also pair Garcia with a language partner, who is a native Portuguese speaker, and they will meet for an hour a day throughout the duration of the program.
“We are immensely proud of Cameron and this wonderful accomplishment of earning a spot in the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship Summer 2021 program,” said Paul Ashby, Ph.D., graduate director and advisor for defense and strategic studies. “Cameron’s success represents a fantastic personal achievement and serves as proof and inspiration that UTEP students can secure these kinds of high-level, nationally competitive opportunities.”
UTEP’s DSS program is designed for individuals who want to go into some aspect of U.S. national security, which includes careers in diplomacy and foreign relations. Garcia is focused on the diplomatic side and aims to become a foreign service officer.
“The DSS helps aspiring diplomats like Cameron understand and communicate confidently about 21st century global security challenges,” Ashby said. “This helps prepare students for the type of complex conversations that happen routinely in the national security interagency process and in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.”
Garcia said some of the papers he has written in class are in the form of memos someone would send to an ambassador or a high-level government official.
“The style of writing that they use in government in general is quite different than academic writing,” Garcia said. “It’s much more concise and matter of fact. The opportunity to practice that style of writing in my courses I feel will prepare me to be effective in my job as a foreign service officer.”
At the end of the CLS program, Garcia said participants are given a non-competitive status for government positions in his field. By combining his background in foreign language with the skills he developed in UTEP’s DSS program, Garcia said he is aiming to work for the U.S. Department of State after graduating from UTEP this summer.
“I really do feel that I’ve been prepared for work as a foreign service officer,” Garcia said. “(UTEP’s DSS program) has been a very positive experience, and I’ve really deepened my understanding of defense and security issues and how they relate to American diplomacy.”