UIC student, alumna earn Critical Language Scholarships

A student and a recent graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago have been awarded the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship to participate in intensive foreign language programs this summer.

Amber Blatt, of Batavia, Illinois, and Zoey Martin-Lockhart, of Salt Lake City, Utah, will spend eight to 10 weeks in India backed by the competitive fully-funded award, which is part of a wider federal initiative to increase the number of Americans mastering critical-need languages less commonly taught in U.S. schools.

Amber Blatt

Amber Blatt

The program’s intensive instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences are designed to promote rapid language gains, particularly with languages considered essential for America‚Äôs engagement with the world. Recipients are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their language skills in their professional careers.

Blatt, who received a master’s in social work from UIC in May, will study beginning-level Urdu at the American Institute of Indian Studies in Lucknow, India.

“It’s a beautiful language with a lot of history,” Blatt said. “The spoken language is almost identical to Hindi and borrows letters from the Persian script, making it a versatile language.”

Blatt, who earned a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from Northern Illinois University in 2010, has career experience that features a mix of financial reporting, budgeting and social work.

While at UIC, she studied international social work and held a variety of social service internships and volunteer roles at Heartland Alliance, RefugeeOne, Hephzibah Children’s Association, and the Cook County Jail. Blatt said her immediate career goals are to work in policy at the state level, but to also pursue future opportunities at the United Nations.

Zoey Martin-Lockhart

Zoey Martin-Lockhart

“This experience will help me learn how to build relationships with other countries and recognize their various needs,” she said. “Gaining knowledge about different ways people identify and behave will help inform my policy work. I feel languages are the doorway.”

Martin-Lockhart, a current UIC graduate student in anthropology, will study intermediate-level Hindi at the American Institute of Indian Studies in Jaipur, India.

She lived in India twice as a child, and returned on a Fulbright-Nehru research grant to study mental health in queer communities after graduating in 2014 from Pitzer College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, gender and sexuality in social contexts.

Martin-Lockhart has sustained this work at UIC while based in the South Asian cultural anthropology research program. Her research continues to focus on the interface between queer communities and mental health systems in metropolitan cities in India, as well as queer cybersociality in India.

“I hope to continue researching and working on issues related to South Asia, gender and sexuality, mental health, and so-called virtual worlds,” she said of her future academic and career pursuits.