National Scholarship Sends Advantage Program Grad to Middle East

Matthew Carlson was on track to earn his bachelor’s degree in business administration through Nebraska Wesleyan’s Advantage Program. The degree would help advance his job as a computer programmer. But along came a communication theory class and suddenly his career plans took an interesting turn.

Matthew CarlsonThat class helped develop an interest in trust issues in communication, specifically how people in the Middle East or those living in disaster areas throughout the world choose to trust or not to trust various communication channels.

Carlson will spend this summer in the Middle East where he will participate in an intensive language program thanks to a prestigious Critical Language Scholarship that will cover all expenses for his overseas studies. He is the sixth Nebraska Wesleyan student in four years to win the national honor. He will study Arabic in Egypt, Jordan, or Tunisia.

The Critical Language Scholarship Program offers the equivalent of one full academic year of language study. Scholarship recipients are expected to continue their language study and apply their skills in their professional careers.

“One communication theory class and doors just started opening for me,” Carlson said. “I found myself thinking, ‘I get this. I want to know more about this.’”

He quickly admits that his first attempt at college wasn’t his best. He eventually quit and entered the workforce. Eight years later he was eager to advance his career. His employer, Design Data, was supportive and funded his education through Nebraska Wesleyan’s Advantage Program — a degree completion program for adults.

The computer programmer had planned on continuing the same career path, but upon realizing a newfound interest in communication, he began exploring other possibilities.

He learned about the Critical Language Scholarship, an award that is available to both traditional and nontraditional undergraduates.

To prepare for the language program, he’s taught himself beginning Arabic. He’s now using a tutor to further prepare him for this summer’s studies.

“Having the opportunity to be in a formal program in full immersion in the country will be incredible,” said Carlson.

Following his summer in the Middle East, Carlson and his wife will pack up their belongings and move to California where he has been accepted into the Ph.D program at the University of California-Santa Barbara. He’s received full funding to attend the university in exchange for being a teaching assistant. He hopes to one day become a communication professor.

“It’s hard to believe,” said Carlson. “I never would have thought things were going to turn out this way.”

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