MSU’s Harper, Phillips receive prestigious Critical Language Scholarships

Contact: Carl Smith

Ryan Harper portrait
Ryan Harper (Photo by Jonah Holland)
Joshua Phillips portrait
Joshua Phillips (Photo by Grace Cockrell)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Two Mississippi State undergraduates are recipients of the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarships and will study foreign languages abroad and virtually this summer.

Ryan Harper, a senior electrical engineering major from Philadelphia, will study Mandarin virtually through the CLS Spark program, and Joshua Phillips, a junior political science and economics double major from Birmingham, Alabama, will study Arabic in Jordan.

Their selection marks the sixth-straight year an MSU student has been awarded through the competitive scholarship program.

“Ryan and Joshua demonstrate, yet again, that MSU students are among the best in the nation,” said David Hoffman, director of MSU’s Office of Prestigious External Scholarships. “They both are driven by an abiding interest in language as the vehicle for international collaboration, whether in scientific discovery or foreign affairs. Joshua’s success this year is built on his initial win and training from the CLS Spark program last year, which shows how the online program can open further doors that we hope Ryan also can take advantage of in the future.”

Harper, a member of the 2024 Bagley College of Engineering Student Hall of Fame and its ENGR Accelerated Program, said studying Mandarin allows him to keep up with electrical engineering advancements originating from China and create open lines of communication for sharing important breakthroughs and discoveries.

Phillips, a G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Presidential Endowed Scholar and Truman Scholarship finalist, grew up in Australia and, after moving to the U.S., developed an interest in international relations—especially those concerning the Middle East and North Africa. He is planning a career as a foreign service officer for the U.S. Department of State following graduate school.

A program of the state department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the CLS and CLS Spark are part of a U.S. government initiative expanding the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages critical to national security and economic prosperity. For more information, visit

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