American University is first in the nation for graduate students who received the prestigious Boren Fellowship this year. AU is second in a ranking that combines the number of recipients of Boren Fellowships and Boren Scholarships, which is an award given to undergraduate students. AU’s Boren Fellows and Scholar are all students in the School of International Service.
Boren Fellows and Scholars share a commitment to both long-term, overseas immersive language study and public service. Boren Fellows also are encouraged to simultaneously pursue research relevant to their degrees. Recipients receive funding to study the languages and cultures deemed critical to US national security, and in exchange, they agree to use their skills for at least one year as federal government employees. The fellowships and scholarships are awarded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP).
“I am immensely proud of our students,” said SIS dean Christine BN Chin. “The eleven students honored by the NSEP with Boren Fellowships and Scholarships all share a keen intellectual curiosity and a desire to truly understand other cultures and peoples. They know that this type of understanding is best achieved by immersing themselves in a place—perhaps allowing themselves to be a little overwhelmed—and seeking out authentic, long-term experiences.”
“I definitely want to learn more about the language and the culture of Croatia—I have been there for work prior to coming to AU. There’s a lot of potential with the country; right now, the Three Seas Initiative is a large regional infrastructure project gaining attention from the global community and US relations with the Balkans region is going to be crucial moving forward,” says Comparative and Regional Studies student Ryan Sullivan (SIS/MA ’23).
He continued: “Chris Swanson at the Office of Merit Awards has been a huge help—I don’t think I could have gotten this award without him, and I'm appreciative of the support from SIS professors Andrew Spath and Adam Auerbach. That’s a big draw for American University in the first place—they support their students going abroad, and AU is one of the top universities that sends students on these Boren Fellowships.”
Development Management student Fatoumata Magassa (SIS/MA ’21) will be working in Ghana during her fellowship: “Through the Boren Fellowship opportunity, I’ll gain additional knowledge regarding the development needs of not just Ghanaian people, but West Africans in general. I’m really interested in a number of sectors, including education, women and girls empowerment, and community development. As part of the Boren Fellowship, I’ll have an opportunity to intern with one to two nonprofit organizations, and by interning with a grassroots organization, I’ll get a better idea of what the needs of locals are on the ground.”
Magassa highlights three professors who not only provided her with letters of recommendation for the fellowship, but also supported her ambitions through their teaching and mentor ship: “I continued to seek out Professor John Heath’s guidance and assistance even after completing his course. Speaking with Professor Stefanie Onder during her office hours, I got opportunities to learn about the work she’s done in the past and the kind of career trajectory she’s taken to get to where she is now. Professor Kwaku Nuamah expanded my knowledge regarding African culture and politics, and he is Ghanaian himself, so he connected me with people who have knowledge of the language that I’d like to learn.”
International Economic Relations student Carina Campellone (SIS/MA ’21) is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPSV), and views the Boren Fellowship opportunity as helping her achieve her long-term goal of joining the State Department: “Doing the Peace Corps after my undergraduate degree is what inspired me and got me interested in international work. I believe in international cooperation, and I hope to help facilitate that in the future.”
Elizabeth Hutcheson (SIS/MA ’21), who is focusing on global migration policy in the Ethics, Peace, and Human Rights program, is looking forward to studying the impact of urbanization of refugees in Amman, Jordan: “I will be looking at how refugees moving to cities impacts the work that groups like the International Rescue Committee are doing in Amman and, more broadly, in Jordan as well.”
SIS graduate students awarded the 2021 Boren Fellowship and the countries in which they will study are: Sarah Higbee-Tindell, China; Ryan Sullivan, Croatia; Fatoumata Magassa, Ghana; Carina Campellone, Indonesia; Elizabeth Hutcheson and Somer Stapleton, Jordan; Sarkis Soubian, Kazakhstan; Jonathan Blackmon, Mozambique; Ra’naa Iqbal, Senegal; and Jacob Waddell, Taiwan. SIS undergraduate student Theodora Mattei was awarded Boren Scholarship; Mattei will study in Azerbaijan.
For more information about applying for Boren Awards, visit the AU Office of Merit Awards online.