It is hard to overemphasize the value of international education in the world that is so divided. The global health crisis brought on by COVID-19 and, most recently, the 2022 Russo-Ukrainian War, exposed the pressing need to establish cultural connections and collaboration between the nations worldwide. Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships (FLAS), which are federally funded academic scholarships, offer students an opportunity to advance and diversify their foreign language skills and cultural knowledge. On October 26, 2021, Center for Global Studies (CGS) held a virtual “FLAS Alumni Career Panel,” that focused on the strategies for using foreign language and area studies skills on the job market for current and recent graduate students.
Speakers for this panel included the UIUC Foreign Language and Areas Studies fellowship (FLAS) alumni, Jeff Kyong-McCain (University of Idaho), Terrell Jermaine Starr (Atlantic Council), and Jeffrey Thibert (University of Notre Dame). The first speaker professor Kyong-McClain received his PhD in modern Chinese history from UIUC in 2009 and held FLAS for the study of Chinese language in 2004. He is currently an Associate Professor of History and Director of the Idaho Asia Institute at the University of Idaho, where he teaches courses on modern China and modern Korea. In turn, Terrell Jermaine Starr, received an MA in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and MS in Journalism in 2009 and held FLAS for the study of Georgian and Russian languages in 2007 and 2008, respectively. In October 2021, when the panel took place, Terrell was a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center; he is now working as an independent journalist based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where he is covering the Russo-Ukrainian War. The final speaker for this event, Professor Jeffrey Thibert, received his Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012 and held FLAS for the study of Arabic in 2012. He is a Paul and Maureen Stefanick Director at Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE) at the University of Notre Dame, where he oversees CUSE operations and advises students who are preparing applications for Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Knight Hennessy, Schwarzman, and McCall MacBain Scholarships.
The panelists discussed their current positions and offered diverse perspectives on their career paths from graduate study to current employment. In their presentations, the speakers highlighted the role that their foreign language and area studies education at UIUC played in their professional development. The panel attendees took the opportunity to further engage the speakers and discuss strategies for leveraging foreign language skills on the job market. These strategies included applying more broadly to fellowships, teaching, and academic positions; soliciting and receiving feedback on the application materials; and learning about and pursuing the non-traditional career opportunities. FLAS Alumni Career panelists demonstrated the key role that foreign language and area studies education can play in career success. Event recording is available on the CGS website: https://cgs.illinois.edu/news/2021-10-26/global-work-series-flas-alumni-career-panel.
CGS offers the UIUC students a variety of global education and career opportunities, in addition to administering FLAS fellowships. According to the results of 2020-2021 FLAS alumni survey, 80% of UIUC FLAS alumni reported using their FLAS language professionally; 30% acquired an additional priority language; 19% work in STEM fields; 6% work in government; 2% work with international agencies; and 46% are employed in education. In a prior survey of FLAS awardees, 81% responded positively that their language and area studies training aided their professional work and career development. Recent FLAS alumni include global public health leaders, bilingual literacy educators, data scientists, environmental specialists, and housing policy analysts, to name a few. Targeted outreach provides the FLAS cohort with unique networking and career opportunities.
CGS collaborates with IL’s Career Services and other National Resource Centers (NRCs) on workshops for public service careers that support areas of national need; each workshop averages 75 undergraduate and graduate students. Annually, CGS promotes and organizes multiple workshops on careers with envoys from the Peace Corps, Department of State, CIA and UN as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Visiting CGS lecturers, like the Director of the US State Dept. Office of Opinion Research in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), meet with groups of students to encourage them to consider government service as a career path. Recent Global Studies graduates work in the Foreign Service, US Airforce, global policy, medicine, and computer science, including one Boren Fellow, who now works as a Management Analyst for the Department of Homeland Security.
For more information on leveraging the education in Global Studies and the Library and Information Science on the job market, check out Nathan Sonnenschein’s blog post: https://blogs.illinois.edu/view/8787/1195346072. To learn more about the career development opportunities offered through CGS, follow CGS on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cgs-uiuc-910547221/