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Grand Valley grad receives U.S. Department of State scholarship

Posted on May 23, 2011

Recent Grand Valley graduate Sandra Braden has won a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship issued by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Braden is among 575 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to receive a scholarship, from more than 5,200 applications from all 50 states and a wide range of academic disciplines.

The program is part of a wider U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical-need languages to help promote mutual understanding and respect between people of the U.S. and people of other countries. Braden will study the Arabic language and culture in Oman from June 1 to August 1. The Arab state is located in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

Braden, from Big Rapids, graduated from Grand Valley in April with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a minor in Mid-East studies. While at Grand Valley she participated in the Arab Culture Club for four years, serving as president in her senior year. She also joined the Model Arab League, which provided opportunities to develop leadership skills, attend a regional conference at Grand Valley and the national conference in Washington, D.C., where she also visited embassies.

“I took every class offered in Arabic language and culture at Grand Valley, did a summer study abroad in Jordan, and knew I wanted to continue my Arabic studies after graduating,” said Braden. “I was very excited to receive notification of this award and the doors it might open to possible careers with the government, business, nonprofit or academic sectors.”

Prior to her departure Braden, who was born in Cairo, and the other scholarship winners will attend orientation sessions in Washington, D.C.  “My mother is Egyptian and my father, who died when I was a freshman, was an American engineer,” said Braden. “We used to visit my mother’s family every other summer, so I know quite a lot about the area.”

The Office of Fellowships works with Grand Valley students on campus who are interested in applying for this and other awards. For more information, visit

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