5 ASU students win prestigious Boren Scholarship

Award funds critical language study abroad


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The Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement (ONSA) has announced that five Arizona State University students have been awarded Boren Scholarships for critical language study abroad.

Sponsored by the National Security Education Program, the Boren Awards promote the study of less-commonly taught foreign languages in an effort to support long-term United States national security and global stability. The Boren Scholarship provides up to $25,000 in funding for immersive study abroad experiences of three months to a full year. As part of their award, Boren Scholars receive professional mentoring and assistance with applying for federal jobs, with the hope of creating a pipeline of talented, committed public servants who are familiar with a wide range of languages and cultures.

“Given our strong commitment to public service and our global outlook, ASU has traditionally been a top producer of Boren winners,” said Kyle Mox, associate dean of national scholarship advisement.

Four of the five recipients will study Mandarin Chinese: Noah Byrd, Raymond Ortiz, Emma Strouse and Madeleine Zheng. The fifth recipient, Madeleine Ryan, will study Portuguese in Brazil. Byrd, Ortiz, Strouse and Zheng are all participants in the ASU Chinese Language Flagship Program and will use their Boren Scholarships to fund their required fifth-year capstone experience.

A challenging process

Given the value and benefits provided by the Boren Scholarship, it is a highly selective program. Over several weeks, Mox advised the students as they refined their Boren applications, which included essays that argue for the relevance of the target language and country to U.S. national security interests and that explain how extended language study will support the applicant’s professional goals.

“The application process was really involved and required a lot of personal reflection,” said Strouse, a Chinese language major. “To explain why China/Taiwan is important to U.S. national security interests is not a super hard task, but doing it in the detailed and specific manner that Boren commands was more difficult than I had anticipated. Also, the application process requires you to describe how you will fulfill your public service requirement, so I had to think a lot about my future goals in a way I never had before.”

Zheng agreed.

“The application process was one of the most extensive applications I have ever completed. Coming from a natural science background and working in an anthropology lab, I wasn't quite sure how my background could contribute toward improving national security,” she said. “However, I received incredible support and guidance from my mentors.”

Once drafts of their applications are complete, the hopeful Boren applicants then participate in evaluation interviews with ASU faculty who specialize in the target language or country. After applying the feedback they receive from the committees and making final revisions to their materials, the applicants then wait for several weeks to learn of the outcome.

“I was commuting back home from school when I received the email that I had been offered the Boren,” said Byrd, a political science and Chinese language double-major. “I took a quick glance at my phone to assess the email title and read the ‘Congratulations! I am pleased to inform you …’ subject line and simply sighed with relief. My hard work of the last two semesters was worth it.”

“I opened my acceptance email in my CHI 380 class,” said Zheng, a biochemistry and Chinese language double-major. “The first person I could share the wonderful news with was my teacher, Dr. Jianling Liao, who is also the director of the ASU Chinese Flagship Program and was one of my Boren recommenders.”

Adventure awaits

While Ortiz, Strouse and Zheng will be traveling to Taiwan for their capstone experience, Byrd will complete his language study at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

“I am just as excited as my peers studying Chinese in Taiwan. The language immersion and intensity of my program will no doubt allow my Chinese proficiency to skyrocket – that is what I am most excited for,” Byrd said.

In contrast, Ryan will be heading to São Paolo, Brazil.

“I'm excited for everything! I'm so excited to see Sugarloaf Mountain, the Christ the Redeemer statue, Bahia (Northeast region), the Amazon. Beyond the tourist attractions, I am so eager to immerse myself in the local culture, to build friendships and connections, and to see firsthand the diversity in Brazilian identity. I'm ready to dive into this experience headfirst.”

An additional benefit of the Boren Scholarship is that it provides a pipeline to federal employment in national security-related agencies.

“I have wanted to work in the public sector for some time,” Strouse said. “The Boren resources will help me significantly with achieving this goal. I specifically look forward to joining the alumni network and building my career.” 

“The Boren will allow me to fully experience living in Taiwan for an entire year without having to worry about finances at all,” Ortiz said. “Furthermore, I am pretty much guaranteed government employment once I graduate, and I can use that experience to transition to a job in the private sector, or to enhance my resume if I decide to pursue any sort of post-grad studies, such as an MBA or JD.”

Mox said that 12 ASU students applied for Boren Scholarships or Fellowships in the 2022 cycle. In addition to the five who were offered Boren awards, two applicants were selected as alternates.

The next application cycle will begin in October. Current ASU undergraduates and graduate students who are interested in applying should reach out to ONSA to learn about upcoming information sessions and workshops.

Story submitted by the Office of National Scholarships Advisement.

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