FLAS Fellowship and Grant Recipients, Part II

The Foreign Language and Area Studies Award includes fellowships and grants, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the UW’s National Resource Centers to assist students in acquiring foreign language and either area or international studies competencies.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Applications by students in professional fields are encouraged. Preference will be given to applicants with a high level of academic ability and with previous language training. Academic Year and Summer FLAS awards are two separate competitions requiring two separate and complete applications. You can attend the virtual info sessions with this link:

January 19 at 2p

February 1 at 4p

African Studies applicants have used the award to learn Swahili, Wolof, Luganda, Arabic, and other African languages. If you are interested in applying, please attend a virtual information session, and, then, contact Assistant Director of African Studies Program Diana Chioma Famakinwa (fellowships@africa.wisc.edu) to learn how to make your grant as competitive as possible. Last year we were able to accommodate FLAS awardees with virtual language programs. If you are applying to Swahili or Arabic, you can apply to multiple area studies centers. You can meet with Diana to learn what is best for your particular circumstances.

Max Bobholz, class of 2022, majors in African Cultural Studies & Biology, who studied  Swahili with FLAS during the 2019-2020 year. He offers his grant experience and advice to undergraduates thinking about the award. 

How have you used the FLAS to study language?

The FLAS was another huge motivator for me to pursue the African Cultural Studies major because it encouraged me to take more and more African Studies classes while improving my Swahili. With the FLAS grant, I took: an African History course, a course on Comics and Graphic Fiction in Africa, a course on African fashion, and a course centered on giving students a multidisciplinary perspective of Africa from pre-colonial to contemporary Africa.  The FLAS really encouraged me and allowed me to get a very well-rounded understanding of African Cultural Studies and really grew my interest in African cultures! 

Would you recommend FLAS and why?

“I would absolutely encourage the FLAS because it is an amazing opportunity/motivation for you to pursue more thorough learning of a less commonly taught language — especially those spoken on the African continent!  Since not as many people are choosing to learn the FLAS languages, you are much more likely to be able to continue your language learning with the FLAS!”

How has language learning supported your long-term goals?

“My learning of Swahili supports my long-term goals of continuing to learn about African cultures (especially East African cultures/communities) and utilizing Swahili communication through continued work with Angels at Bat.  I want to be well-informed about the cultures of East Africa so that I can continue to work with Angels at Bat; there is truly no better way to be well-informed about a community than learning their language.  My current post-graduation plan is to pursue a medical degree, so my study of Swahili (and my general study of African cultures) allows me to more confidently communicate with more and more people!”

Miles Wilkerson is a history PhD student, whose work addresses the political economy of disability in the African diaspora, specifically early American history. He offers his FLAS experience for the 2019-2020 academic year. Miles’ reflection highlights the significance of African language study and FLAS as a means to support projects pertaining to the African diaspora.

Why did you study Yorùbá?

“My interest in studying Yorùbá was twofold. The first reason was to integrate ethnography into my research on disability in the early modern African diaspora. Yorùbá is spoken not only in Nigeria and Togo, but also Brazil, Cuba, and other parts of the Americas. The transatlantic nature of my academic interests made Yorùbá a natural fit.

More personally, I recently discovered that I am strongly tied to the Yorùbá diaspora genetically. Speaking to a dear friend in his native language -the language that my ancestors spoke- has been a real blessing that I would not have received without my FLAS award.”

Would you recommend FLAS and why?

“FLAS is an exceptional program that can help you not only academically, but professionally as well. Learning a less-commonly-taught language gives a fellow a unique skill that can help in both the public and private sectors. I encourage students to apply.”

How has language learning supported your long-term goals?

“I received knowledge that I did not expect from the program. Learning about the richness of Yorùbá spirituality, music, proverbs, naming practices, and history exposed me to a different way of thinking and being in the world. FLAS actually enriched and altered the orientation of my project in a meaningful and unanticipated way. Also, learning Yorùbá sparked an interest in privately learning conversational Akan and Kikongo. I am confident that these language skills will help me in and outside of the academy.”