Isabella Smull ’16 and Dana Leonard ’18 are among 165 students selected as Boren Scholars this year, supporting a federal initiative to deepen the pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills.
Sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), the award provides students funding and encouragement to develop language skills and experiences in countries critical to the stability of the U.S. It’s designed to help the federal sector address and respond to global issues in the 21st century, which aligns with the Swarthmore students' academic and personal interests.
“I was ecstatic and very thankful to find out that I’ve been given the opportunity to take the next step — to move beyond my studies and toward taking action,” says Smull, an Honors political science major from Kensington, Calif.
Adds Leonard, an anthropology & sociology major from Wilmington, Del.: “Since finding out that I received the Boren, I have experienced a whirlwind of emotions. I am excited, overwhelmed, proud, and most of all, grateful — not only for the scholarship itself, but for all of the people who have supported me throughout the application process.”
Smull will spend the next academic year at The Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, becoming fluent in Portuguese while studying international and regional security issues. She will also research emerging security and development issues at Igarapé Institute.
Smull has also received a Pan American Association of Philadelphia 2016 Janice Bond Senior Award for her excellence in Latin American studies.
The African Flagship Languages Initiative, a sub-initiative of the Boren award, will take Leonard to an intensive program at the University of Florida to study Portuguese this summer. She will then spend a year in Maputo, Mozambique to continue her study of the language and develop a comprehensive understanding of the area’s culture through courses in sociology, anthropology, history, literature, and linguistics at The Universidade Eduardo Mondlane.
In exchange for funding, Boren scholars agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year. Smull says she hopes to work for the Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Leonard is flexible on the specific government agency but hopes to find a job abroad that supports global security through studying and engaging with local communities.
The Institute of International Education, which administers the Boren awards on behalf of NSEP, received 820 applications for the Boren Scholarship from undergraduates across the U.S. Three hundred and fifty graduate students applied for the Boren Fellowship, and 105 were awarded.
Boren Scholars and Fellows will live in 41 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East, and they will study 36 different languages.
“To continue to play a leadership role in the world, it is vital that America's future leaders have a deep understanding of the rest of the world,” says University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who as a U.S. Senator wrote the legislation that initiated the NSEP. “As we seek to lead through partnerships, understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential.”