ETSU student, first ever to do so, wins Department of State scholarship

Published 4:04 pm Monday, April 17, 2023

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JOHNSON CITY – An East Tennessee State University student will spend time in Tanzania this summer thanks to a prestigious scholarship.

ETSU’s Jessica Potter, a child psychology major and University Honors scholar, will study Swahili in the East African country from mid-June through early August.

“We are so proud of Jessica and what she has accomplished,” said Dr. Christopher Keller, senior international officer at ETSU and dean of the Honors College. “Jessica has worked hard and is very deserving of this. The award is a perfect fit to help her realize her personal and professional goals in the non-profit and NGO (non-governmental organization) sector.”

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Potter is the recipient of a Critical Language Scholarship, a deeply competitive award offered to U.S. college students annually through the U.S. Department of State. The award provides students an in-country language immersion experience in which they gain proficiency in one of the many critical languages offered by the program: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu.

Potter is the first ETSU student to receive the award.

Potter will spend 10 weeks this summer in Arusha, Tanzania, near the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in the northeast area of the country. Her interest in Swahili is tied to a previous internship and a future fellowship at The Friends of Refugees, a non-profit organization in Atlanta that assists female migrants and refugees from East Africa.

“I am incredibly thankful and excited for the opportunity to travel to Tanzania and learn Swahili this summer,” said Potter. “I would not be here without the support of wonderful mentors and friends, and I hope my experiences honor the people I care for and will serve in the future.”

Potter’s award also signals ETSU’s growing efforts to assist students in winning nationally competitive scholarships.

“ETSU’s Office of Prestigious Awards is committed to helping our students apply for and be awarded some of the most impressive nationally competitive scholarships available,” said Dr. Carson Medley, interim director of Prestigious Awards at ETSU. “Our work in this area over the last couple of years is bearing fruit, and Jessica is proof that we have outstanding students who can compete for these awards. This is only the beginning.”

For students interested in exploring these scholarship opportunities, visit