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Anna Kozan ’24 Awarded Prestigious Critical Language Scholarship

May 18, 2023

Anna Kozan ’24 of Ramapo College of New Jersey was awarded the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Spark program scholarship. CLS Spark is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and is part of a U.S. government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity.

Thanks to Dr. Erick Castellanos, associate professor of International Studies, Anna learned about CLS Spark program and decided to apply. “We live in a global world, a time when international relations and understanding are key. I believe this opportunity will be pivotal in equipping me to live in, love, and serve such a world,” she shared.

Anna is a Nursing and Spanish Language Studies double-major who hopes to work in global health. She is also earning her certificate in Spanish for Healthcare and Human Services. “Every single human being deserves the right equitable healthcare, and unfortunately language barriers and miscommunications often stand in the way of this.” Because of her clinicals in the nursing program, Anna is able to connect with Spanish-speaking populations.  Anna is excited about the opportunities the CLS Spark scholarship will provide. “I now look forward to doing the same for the Russian-speaking population, a people who have fled from Russia, Ukraine and surrounding areas, often to seek refuge from a war-torn land. To work with patients from other cultures is one thing. To understand the words that they say is another. This allows the nurse to meet both the patients’ most basic to most vital needs, and to engage with them in a way that only speaking the same language could. This is especially crucial when these patients are at their most vulnerable moments of illness.”

Dr. Natalia Santamaria Laorden, associate professor of Spanish, has served as a mentor to Anna since beginning her undergraduate studies. At the time, Anna was interested in pursuing a Spanish minor, unbeknownst to her that by the time she was a junior, she would have studied abroad in Spain, gained advanced proficiency in the language, and completed the Spanish major requirements. Anna attributes her accomplishments and interests in healthcare and languages to the mentorship of Dr. Santamaria Laorden. “She showed me that I have a gift for languages, and pushed me out of my comfort zone to take advanced classes before I felt ready, to do a double major, and to study abroad. I cannot thank her enough for all that she has done for me. Not only did she help me discover my own capabilities, but she advocated for me to be able to complete a double major, when no other student had done a double major in Nursing and Spanish at Ramapo before.”

The Spanish for Healthcare and Human Services Certificate was created by Santamaria Laorden at Ramapo College, which aims at developing students’ linguistic proficiency and cultural competency in Spanish so that they can operate professionally in a medical and human services setting with native speakers of the language. She also was elected to lead the Languages of Specific Purposes (LSP) interest group, which is a national initiative formed by ACTFL.


Ramapo College challenges students to think critically. The liberal arts curriculum provides the foundation for students like Anna to experience an interdisciplinary approach to learning, enabling them to be prepared for not only a career in their major, but in professions they might not have considered when they arrived on campus. Anna agrees, “I chose Ramapo College because of its excellent nursing program and strong liberal arts curriculum.” She added that receiving the presidential scholarship was also a big draw. Ramapo is committed to support students with many opportunities for merit and need-based aid.

After graduation, Anna would like to work as a registered nurse in New Jersey to grow her skills as a healthcare worker. “New Jersey is a very diverse state and I love how I am able to interact with so many different cultures and languages daily here.” She also plans to explore graduate school programs, including an MSN and DNP, and is also considering a degree in public health and/or linguistics. Her desire to give back to a world that has given her so much ignited her passion to consider disaster relief nursing, so she is able to help in situations such as the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye, and the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. As an open-minded, lifelong learner with a spirit for adventure, Anna feels most at home when she is not staying still. Her love for being abroad, coupled with all that she is learning at Ramapo College, will serve her, and the world, very well.