Two CSU students receive State Department Critical Language Scholarships

Zoe Arndt and Sydney Spiegel, Colorado State University
Zoe Arndt (left) and Sydney Spiegel are studying languages overseas this summer as part of the Critical Language Scholarship program.

Colorado State University students Zoe Arndt and Sydney Spiegel have been awarded Critical Language Scholarships by the U.S. Department of State, a program that provides intensive overseas language and cultural immersion.

Arndt, a recent graduate from the College of Natural Sciences, and Spiegel, a sophomore in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, will join approximately 550 competitively selected students from U.S. colleges and universities this summer as part of the program.

CLS is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. CLS scholars gain language and cultural skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

Zoe Arndt

With a passion for zoology and conservation, Arndt, a first-generation college student who graduated in May from the College of Natural Sciences with her bachelor’s degree, will study Swahili in Tanzania for two months in the town of Usa River.

She previously studied abroad in Tanzania during her junior year at CSU, which led her to become a peer adviser at the Education Abroad Office. She said the role exposed her to the CLS program and its benefits.

“My dream career is to become a wildlife conservation researcher in East Africa,” said Arndt, who is from Colorado Springs. “The CLS scholarship program will further my knowledge and comprehension of the Swahili language which will be useful in my goal of conducting wildlife conservation research in this region of the world.”

Arndt said that she found her life’s passion at CSU, adding that she is looking forward to practicing speaking Swahili. Following the trip, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in zoology.

Sydney Spiegel

Spiegel, a non-traditional transfer student who is majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in Chinese language, is heading to Suzhou, China for the CLS program.

A native of Fort Collins, Spiegel traveled the world after graduating from high school, living in Western Europe and Africa as well as South and Central America. While in Spain, he built treehouses in the Pyrenees.

With a lifelong passion for building things and dreams of being an inventor, Spiegel returned home to attend CSU and study engineering. He has worked at the Powerhouse Energy Campus, home to the University’s Energy Institute which develops innovative solutions to energy challenges. He now works in the Adaptive Robotics Lab, directed by Assistant Professor Jianguo Zhao in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Spiegel said he started studying Mandarin as a total accident; it was the only class that would accommodate his schedule. However, he said he grew to love it, adding that it allows him to connect with engineering jobs and research coming out of China.

“The Chinese program [through the College of Liberal Arts at] CSU is incredible,” he said. “I can’t recommend it enough to anyone. Also, the Powerhouse is a really wonderful resource where I can apply what I’ve learned in my engineering courses.”

Critical Language Scholarships Program

Recipients of the 2019 CLS awards include students from more than 230 institutions of higher education across the U.S., including public and private universities, liberal arts colleges, minority-serving institutions, military academies and community colleges.

Since 2006, CLS has awarded scholarships to more than 6,200 American students to learn critical languages around the world. CLS scholars are among the more than 50,000 academic and professional exchange program participants supported annually by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The CLS program is administered by American Councils for International Education.

Students interested in applying for the Critical Language Scholarships Program should contact Mary Swanson, associate director of the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising and the Office for Undergraduate Research and Artistry, at