BU Today

Campus Life

Government Grants Through African Studies Center

Scholarships now available to undergraduates studying African languages


A photographic montage of life at the African Studies Center.

For the first time, undergraduate students studying advanced levels of African languages are eligible for FLAS scholarships, administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships program (FLAS). In the past only graduate students were eligible for the grants.

Now, three BU students taking advanced levels of African language courses will receive grants of $15,000 through the African Studies Center. Center director Timothy Longman, a College of Arts & Sciences visiting professor of political science, hopes the scholarships will encourage undergrads to continue their studies of African languages and pursue other language study opportunities. BU offers seven African languages (Arabic and six sub-Saharan languages).

Zachary Gersten (CAS’11) is one of the first undergraduates to receive a FLAS scholarship. A biology major with double minors in African studies and African languages and literatures, Gersten is currently studying Wolof, a West African language spoken in Senegal. He is one of the first Americans ever to learn Wolof Ajami, a centuries-old writing system that applies modified Arabic script to a phonetic rendering of various countries’ languages; Wolof is written in Ajami. BU is the only university in the United States to teach Wolof Ajami. Gersten says that being able to pursue advanced language study is integral to his future. “I hope to be able to move to Senegal after graduation and enter the public health system there and cater to the people who are literate in Wolof, but do not necessarily speak French, Senegal’s official language.”

The new eligibility rules allowed Emily Nolan (CAS’11), an international relations major and French minor, to spend an extra semester in Niamey, Niger, where she was studying with BU’s Niamey International Development Program. Although Niger is also a French-speaking country, Nolan chose to study both of the local languages offered, Hausa and Zarma. Like Gersten, she understands the importance of knowing the local language.

“My experience in Niger would have been completely different if I had communicated with Nigeriens solely in a colonial language,” Nolan says. “Making an effort to speak to people in their maternal language really means a lot to them and sets us apart from other expatriates living in their country.” Currently applying to grad school at BU, she is grateful for the opportunities the scholarship has given her: “I think FLAS is an amazing program and I feel extremely lucky to be a recipient.”

The FLAS scholarships provide $10,000 towards tuition, as well as a $5,000 stipend. To be eligible, students must be enrolled in an intermediate or advanced African language course. Applications must include a statement of purpose and letters of recommendation; the deadline for applying for the next academic year is Tuesday, February 15, and March 1 for this summer.

Details on language study with the African Studies Center can be found 
here. More 
information about the scholarship application is available here

Erin Thibeau can be reached at ethibeau@bu.edu.


One Comment on Government Grants Through African Studies Center

  • Nfamara K Dampha on 09.18.2011 at 6:19 pm

    very pleased

Post Your Comment

(never shown)