April 13, 2021
Contact: Brian Consiglio, 573-882-9144, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, University of Missouri President Mun Choi, MU College of Arts and Science Dean Pat Okker and several others surprised MU senior Elizabeth Kujath via Zoom with the news that she is the 2021 recipient of the Mark Twain Fellowship. The highly competitive, MU-sponsored award annually supports one Mizzou senior or recent graduate to pursue graduate study outside North America in any discipline.
Kujath, a Kansas City native double majoring in linguistics and religious studies, will graduate in May 2021 with university honors. The fellowship will allow her to attend Leiden University in the Netherlands, where she will pursue a master’s degree in linguistics with a specialization in linguistic documentation and description.
“We had an incredible group of finalists, and your record stood out, Liz,” Choi said during the surprise Zoom announcement. “I was impressed by your courage and sense of adventure with your travels to Africa to study languages, and I know you will be a terrific ambassador for this award.”
In its 8th year, the annual Mark Twain Fellowship is awarded to one MU senior or recent graduate who demonstrates high academic achievement, leadership, service and character.
“Mark Twain Fellows serve as Mizzou ambassadors at institutions that attract tremendously accomplished and qualified students from around the world,” said Ben Trachtenberg, MU law professor and Twain Fellowship selection committee chair. “It is a great chance to showcase the diversity of Mizzou students, their backgrounds, accomplishments and career aspirations. The opportunities abroad for these students to develop skills and work with scholars in their chosen fields is invaluable.”
After completing her master’s degree, Kujath hopes to earn a doctoral degree and pursue a career in linguistics research and indigenous language documentation. During her undergraduate career, she has studied Swahili in Tanzania for two semesters through the Boren Scholarship program and was MU’s first exchange student at Ghent University in Belgium, where she took master’s level courses in their Department of African Languages and Cultures.
Additionally, Kujath has researched understudied languages in East Africa, specifically the Luyia cluster of Bantu languages in western Kenya and eastern Uganda. As part of the Cherng Summer Scholars program within the MU Honors College, Kujath traveled to western Kenya to collect linguistic data.
“When I first visited family friends in Kenya, I immediately became intrigued by hearing the diversity of languages, and it sparked my interest to learn more,” Kujath said. “I have loved the opportunities I have had at Mizzou to study abroad, and the hands-on research training I received from my faculty mentor, Professor Marlo, has given me a wealth of practical knowledge and a real passion for linguistics.”