FLAS Fellowship and Grant Recipients

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:

   December 9 at 5p

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.

Claire Widmann, an undergraduate student who studied Swahili, offers her FLAS experience to provide insight to potential applicants.

Why did you study Swahili?

“I was drawn to Swahili by the rich history, diverse landscape, and agricultural ingenuity of East Africa. After deciding to study in Kenya, I knew my experience would be aided by my ability to make friends and show respect in the local language.”

Tell us about your experience with the Summer FLAS award?

“My summer FLAS was specially designed to facilitate learning amidst the COVID-19 crisis. I met with my instructor one on one for 3.5 hours a day on video call. The small size allowed plenty of space for asking questions, conversation, and fun bonuses like cooking chapatis!”

How did the FLAS prepare you for your current travels in Kenya? What are you doing there this semester?

“I am currently living on a farm in Kimahuri, a village located in the foothills of Mount Kenya. I spend my days learning from a local farmer. Swahili my most valuable asset, allowing me to understand instructions and ask questions, as well as get to know people in town!”

Would you recommend FLAS and why?

“I strongly recommend FLAS to anyone who is serious about learning a language. The intensive format ensures you will learn a lot, and the program administrators and instructors are very helpful.”

How has language learning supported your long-term goals?

“Learning Kiswahili has allowed me to discover new passions and make connections. I hope to carry the language with me to graduate school and beyond, eventually finding work in agricultural development.”

History PhD candidate Lindsay Ehrisman has earned two academic years and two summers of FLAS fellowships. She shares her insight on balancing language and area studies courses, as well as how to develop a productive summer program on limited funding.

Tell us about your language study and how FLAS has supported your process?

“I began studying Luganda—a language primarily spoken in the Central Province of Uganda—after receiving an academic year FLAS in the second year of my African history PhD program here at UW-Madison. With the support of FLAS, I had the opportunity to study Luganda in Professor Thompson’s Less Commonly Taught Languages course for two consecutive academic years, and at the City Language Centre in Kampala, Uganda over two summers.”

What did you find most beneficial about both the summer and academic year FLAS awards?

“Both summer and academic year FLAS awards provide a number of benefits and invaluable opportunities to awardees. For me, perhaps the greatest benefit was getting the opportunity to live with a host family and participate in an immersive summer language training program in Kampala. Since Luganda language courses are not offered at UW-Madison (list most other universities), receiving a summer FLAS provided a rare opportunity to take formal language classes, and also to live, build relationships, and practice Luganda with native speakers at home.

Another benefit, particularly regarding the academic year FLAS award, is simply time. Most graduate students receive funding through time-consuming Teaching Assistantships that often take time away from meeting our program requirements—including language requirements. The financial support FLAS provides, grants awardees the rare opportunity to focus full-time on language learning.”

How does Luganda support your research?

“Luganda has been very important to my research for a number of reasons. Methodologically speaking, my dissertation relies heavily comparative linguistic evidence from a set of related languages that include Luganda. Learning Luganda not only served as a crucial first step in collecting and analyzing linguistic evidence, but also enabled me to conduct interviews and read (or listen) to other kinds of relevant Luganda-language historical sources and scholarship. Perhaps more importantly, my Luganda language knowledge allowed me to build and maintain meaningful relationships with the many people I met in Kampala (and Luganda-speakers elsewhere in Uganda) that made my research possible and enriched my analysis in various ways.”

What advice do you have for graduate students applying to FLAS?

“For anyone applying for a summer FLAS, I would recommend that they start reaching out to potential summer programs far in advance. It is best to find a summer language program that combines tuition and room and board, if possible. I found that when I took the time to reach out, introduce myself, and explain the exact amount and budget breakdown of the award, the program director really worked with me to make a program possible on my budget. I would also recommend that if you have the opportunity to live with a host family, you absolutely should! It made such a difference in my language learning progress, and more importantly, allowed me to establish close relationships with my host family members that made intensive language learning, and later, two years of fieldwork, incredibly fun.”