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Inaugural Critical Language Scholarship won by Reed College senior


Samuel Kigar, a religion major, will travel to Egypt this summer to study Arabic


PORTLAND, OR (May 16, 2006) – Reed College senior Samuel Kigar of Ridgway, Colo., has been awarded a Critical Language Scholarship by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers. Kigar, who graduated from Reed on Monday, is one of 20 students selected nationally from a pool of 1,300 to attend the American Research Center in Egypt for a six-week program of classes in both Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian dialect.

"I am very fortunate to have received this scholarship," said Kigar. "The opportunity to travel to Cairo is, in itself, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, and the chance to learn Arabic in this context is another significant step toward my goal of continuing to learn about Islamic culture."

In 2005, Kigar won a Reed grant to study Arabic in Morocco at the Arabic Language Institute of Fez. "This was a short (3-week) but inspiring class on Modern Standard Arabic," Kigar said. "And I had the unbelievable opportunity to live with a Moroccan family while there."

Kigar's senior thesis– the year-long research project that all seniors must complete before graduation – is an ethnographic case study of Muslims in an Oregon Prison. He worked on the project with Kyriell Noon, a visiting professor at Reed who specializes in American religions. In future academic work, he plans to return to a project he worked on with Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, assistant professor of religion at Reed and 2006 Carnegie Scholar, for which they tracked the relationship between elite textual religion and mass religion through Muslim preaching.

The Critical Language Scholarship program, funded by the US State Department and administered by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, aims to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical-need languages, including Arabic, Bangla, Hindi, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu. "The funding for this trip comes from the United States government,"Kigar said, "which I think signals a growing awareness that mutual-education is the best option for a stronger relationship between the U.S. and Arab states. I am honored to participate in this important work."

Kigar plans to stay in the Middle East for another month after finishing classes, traveling and sightseeing while practicing his Arabic.