Macias ’23 Earns Critical Language Scholarship

August 23, 2023

By Jessica Firpi ’11

Rollins student Alexa Macias ’23, CLS Program recipient

Alexa Macias ’23 has earned a Critical Language Scholarship to study Chinese in Taiwan at the National Cheng Kung University.

Alexa Macias ’23 earned a highly esteemed U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program spot to study the Chinese language at the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan, Taiwan, this summer. A triple major in international business, Asian studies, and international relations, Macias immersed herself in this opportunity, furthering her passions for understanding the global economy and exploring cultural differences.

In 2023, over 5,000 students from 245 higher education institutions across the United States applied for just 500 spots in the CLS Program, a U.S. Department of State initiative that seeks to educate more Americans for fluency in languages with strategic importance to national security and prosperity.

Alexa Macias '23 with her language partner
Alexa Macias with her language partner, a fellow NCKU student, out on a hike in Taiwan. The CLS Program includes intensive language instruction and cultural enrichment experiences to promote rapid language gains.

With an acceptance rate just shy of 10 percent, the program provides U.S. students an immersive summer opportunity to study one of 14 critical languages in a country or location where the target language is commonly spoken. Most languages offered by the CLS Program do not require students to have any prior study experience, but Chinese is one of only two languages that requires applicants to have already studied the language for at least two years to be considered, making Macias’ selection even more impressive.

Macias praises the academic advising team for helping her with the rigorous application process and for steering her toward meaningful experiences throughout her Rollins journey.

“Dr. [Danielle] Abdon [former director of the Office of External Fellowships & Scholarships] was the person who helped me not only find the CLS Program, but she mentored me throughout the application process, helping me craft and edit my essays over the course of two years,” says Macias.

The CLS Program seeks participants with diverse interests from a wide range of fields of study and career paths, with the purpose of representing the full diversity of the United States. At Rollins, Macias served on the debate team and on the Business Student Leadership Council, which cultivates professional development opportunities for business students. She also completed a study abroad experience in Singapore, immersing herself in an ethnically diverse environment and learning cultural traditions from China, India, Malaysia, and more—essential preparation not only for the CLS scholarship, but also for her development as a global citizen. Macias thanks Mary Choi Robinson, assistant director of international programs, for tirelessly helping her navigate her study abroad options in Asia, which was an especially difficult task during the pandemic.

Macias credits the close guidance she received from her professors and staff mentors for giving her the skills and confidence to succeed in her chosen fields and while abroad in Taiwan. For example, philosophy professor Eric Smaw, advisor to the debate team, helped guide both her personal growth and professional development, while business professor Emmanuel Kodzi’s Leading International Operations class was invaluable for its hands-on experiences and focus on developing emotional intelligence.

“Learning to be open-minded and being able to critically analyze different cultural situations was something that really allowed me to thrive here in Taiwan,” says Macias. “The accessibility of professors and their genuine interest in my growth fostered an environment where I felt supported and valued. Their mentorship extended beyond the classroom, as they offered guidance on career choices and personal development. Their insights and advice have been instrumental in shaping my academic and professional trajectory.”

After she wraps up her studies in Taiwan, Macias will head to Hong Kong Baptist University for her final semester, and then in the spring, will work as a business consultant at a startup. She’s also excited to soon partner with Rollins’ Office of External Fellowships & Scholarships to secure a place in an overseas master’s program related to international business, preferably in Taiwan or China, and possibly join the ranks of Rollins graduates who have earned a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship.

A Rollins professor leads a discussion in an outdoor classroom.

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