Naimal Chisti, FCLC ’23, a graduate of Fordham’s humanitarian studies and political science programs and a member of the Higher Education Opportunity Program, will study intermediate Arabic in Meknes, Morocco, this summer as a recipient of the selective Critical Language Scholarship. 

The Critical Language Scholarship Program, run by the U.S. Department of State, provides intensive summer language and cultural exchange programs across the world. Chisti is one of 17 Fordham students who have been awarded the scholarship since the program began in 2006

An Aspiring Foreign Service Officer

Naimal Chisti holds two certificates while standing in front of two giant flags.
Chisti holding the Joseph O’Hare Humanitarian Award and the Critical Language Scholarship Award at the 2023 FCLC Awards Ceremony

Chisti will study Arabic, one of the most spoken languages in the world—and a language that is important to her Muslim faith. Chisti grew up reading the Muslim holy book, the Quran, which is written in Arabic. She also studied classic Arabic throughout high school.

From June to August, Chisti will learn intermediate Arabic in Morocco. When she returns home, she plans to pursue her goal of becoming a foreign service officer, focused on the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. She’s also considering law school. 

It’s important to understand conflicts in the MENA area and why this area is crucial, especially since it’s a source of global economic energy resources,” Chisti said. 

A Global Education at Fordham

Chisti is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants. She was raised by her father, a taxi driver, and her mother, who reared Chisti and her three siblings in Brooklyn. Chisti enrolled at Fordham as a member of the University’s Higher Education Opportunity Program. This May, she became the second member of her family to earn a college degree. (Last year, her older sister graduated from Columbia University.)

In her studies at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, including the selective Matteo Ricci Seminar, she learned about different world views. “In my humanitarian studies program, we didn’t just talk about what’s done right by the U.S. We talked about every aspect, the things we need to fix, and that we can fix them,” Chisti said. 

Outside of the classroom, Chisti tutored and taught students at Goddard Riverside, New Visions for Public Schools, and Harlem Children’s Zone. On Global Outreach projects to Colombia and Mexico, she met with community partners and examined immigrant issues. This year, she interned with the International Rescue Committee, where she taught English to adult ESL students and helped immigrants to pursue their career and education goals. At Fordham, she also served as president of the Muslim Students Association at Lincoln Center. 

“Fordham has given me a lot of opportunities,” Chisti said. “It gave me a stool, and I took the jump to get where I needed to be.” 

In addition to Chisti, three other students and alumni were awarded a Critical Language Scholarship or named an alternate during the 2022-2023 academic school year:

  • Caitlin Leib, FCLC ’23, a French studies graduate from Connecticut, is in the Beginner Russian Spark program.
  • Alexander Meyer, GSAS ’24, an international political economy and development major from Arizona, is an alternate for Beginner Portuguese.
  • Alexandra Tamsi, FCRH ’24, an international studies major from Connecticut, is an alternate for Intermediate Russian.



Taylor is a visual storytelling strategist in Fordham University's marketing and communications department, where she documents University life through photography and video. Since joining Fordham in 2018, she has served as a writer, photographer, videographer, and social media manager, dividing her time between University Marketing and Communications and the Office of the President. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Stony Brook University's School of Communication and Journalism and her master's degree in public media from Fordham University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her work has appeared on NPR, NBC New York, and amNewYork METRO.