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Saturday February 4th

Lost scholarship a 'shock to the system'

UNC center tries to recoup lost scholarship money

Anna Yudina, a second year graduate student in the UNC Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies, recently lost her funding from the FLAS scholarship program due to budgeting issues.
Buy Photos Anna Yudina, a second year graduate student in the UNC Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies, recently lost her funding from the FLAS scholarship program due to budgeting issues.

Even though the center has received Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships since 1991, the center found itself empty-handed.

“We’re not sure what happened,” Yudina, who is studying Czech, said. “Everyone was very optimistic, and everyone was expecting to get FLAS.”

About 12 students were affected by the decision, said Robert Jenkins, the director of the center.

Every four years, global centers compete for the money, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Awards are given to graduate and advanced undergraduate students pursuing foreign language for professional purposes.

Nationally, global centers have struggled to balance their budgets as the Department of Education hasn’t awarded as many of the Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships. Slavic and East European studies departments across the country saw budget cuts of 18.5 percent from four years ago, Jenkins said.

Between 2010 and 2014, Jenkins’ center received the highest amount of money for the Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships compared to other centers that received funding. Jenkins said he expected less money, but the complete elimination of the fellowships was unexpected.

“This is a major shock to the system,” he said. “We had been building our budget around this grant for more than 20 years.”

Award recipients were informed in May that their fellowships would be contingent on the Department of Education’s decision. The center is now working to assist students who would have received the award.

“The center is trying to make sure the FLAS recipients have some sort of funding or at least make sure their tuitions are covered,” Yudina said. “I’m not sure how doable this is ... but I know that they’re trying hard.”

Jenkins said he is unsure of how exactly his center will make up the shortfall — he said the UNC Center for Global Initiatives might help in the long term.

UNC didn’t hear the news until Oct. 1 — months after it expected to — and the department hasn’t heard why it didn’t receive funding, Jenkins said.

“Competitions are competitions,” he said. “I understand there are going to be winners and losers, but the procedure this year left us no option to plan.”

Lynn Virgil, who studied Russian and East European studies in 2002, used the Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships to study Serbo-Croatian and get an internship in Bosnia. Virgil now works as a foreign service officer at the U.S. Department of State.

“FLAS is incredibly important,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities or could have studied Slavic languages as proficiently without it.”

Yudina said studying Slavic and East European languages is important given current events.

“It’s really sad that we didn’t get it just because of what is going on in Russia and the Ukraine,” she said. “You would expect that people who specialize in Russian studies would really be in demand.”

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