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Program Profile: The Olmsted Scholar Program

A mosaic view of the 2013 Olmsted Scholars' faces.

Educational grants for two years of graduate study in a foreign language and other educational experiences in a foreign country to competitively selected career line officers from the four branches of the U.S. military.

Each year, the Olmsted Scholar Program offers educational grants for two years of graduate study in a foreign language and other educational experiences in a foreign country to competitively selected career line officers from the four branches of the U.S. military.  The Foundation has the goal of selecting the most highly qualified officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps annually, with the number of Scholars selected based on the Foundation's financial ability to support them and the available pool of qualified candidates.

Olmsted Scholar candidate finalists are selected by screening boards within their respective Service with final selection of Scholars, and the designation of their location for overseas study being made at the Spring meeting (usually in March or April) of the Board of Directors of the Foundation.  Olmsted Scholars enroll as full-time students and study in the language of their host country while interacting with the residents of the countries in which they are living.  They are expected to live on the economies of their host countries, travel widely, and be connected US embassies/consulates for necessary force protection and administrative purposes only.

By rare exception, Scholars may take course work where the language of instruction is English but the surrounding culture is not English-based, (this has been a consideration in countries such as India, China, or Egypt). The Board of Directors will designate Scholars for these countries and take into due consideration the cultural influences and the  strategic importance of those particular countries.

The Program originated with the first class of military officers in 1960.  The general purpose of the Program at the outset was to broadly educate those young career military line officers who exhibit extraordinary potential for becoming this country's future military leaders.  This remains the purpose today.

Study at a foreign university, in a foreign language and immersion in a foreign culture, was chosen because this extremely challenging period in the young officer's life and career has an important maturing effect.  It is the ideal time for advanced education and to increase their sensitivity to the languages, interests, viewpoints, cultures, histories, and concerns of people around the world.  This sensitivity is invaluable as the officer continually receives greater responsibility and becomes ever more involved with the leaders, both civilian and military, of the United States and other countries as his or her career unfolds.

Scholars comprise a growing body of talented and uniquely educated officers, who, with the added dimension of their Olmsted Scholar experience, are a significant asset to the United States.  Their education and experience are being used effectively in assignments to command positions and other high level assignments within their Services, NATO, unified and joint commands, and the Joint Staff.

As a group, they have followed a pattern of early promotion, to include forty (40) Scholars now having achieved general/flag officer rank.

With the selection of the 55th Olmsted Scholar Class in March 2013, five hundred eighty two (582) Scholars have completed, are completing, or are preparing for two years of study abroad. Their studies to date have been in forty one (41) languages, at one hundred ninety eight (198) different foreign universities, in fifty nine (59) countries.

What do Olmsted Scholars do?

  • Learn a foreign language fluently
  • Experience a foreign culture in depth
  • Study formal subjects broadly
  • Earn a Masters Degree routinely
  • Travel a foreign country and region extensively
  • Meet foreign citizens continually
  • Understand fully how others view the United States
  • Prepare thoroughly to be effective and knowledgeable future leaders 

What are the advantages of learning a foreign language?

  • It is the window to understanding and appreciating foreign culture
  • Helps one to focus, to concentrate, to think when reading, writing, listening, speaking
  • Adds significantly to one's understanding of their own language and increases their native vocabulary
  • Increases one's self-awareness and self-confidence
  • Broadens one's view of how others look at and describe America and Americans
  • Expands greatly one's flexibility, understanding, and home and abroad
  • Provides an important, impressive, unique credential to one's resume

What is success for an Olmsted Scholar?

  • Completes prescribed foreign language training
  • Completes at least 2 years of foreign travel and study at a foreign university
  • Achieves cultural and linguistic fluency over the course of the scholarship
  • Establishes long term contacts and friendships with foreign students and other overseas friends
  • Develops understanding and appreciation for the role the U.S. and other nations play in international relations
  • Serves in leadership positions in the military following the overseas tour
  • Becomes a leader in community, government, or business affairs upon retirement
  • Serves as a strong, lifetime advocate for The Olmsted Scholar Program, actively recruiting new candidates
  • Supports and maintains contact with The Olmsted Foundation, its website and other Scholars, attending Foundation and Scholar events whenever possible
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