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W&M seniors awarded U.S. security scholarship to learn foreign languages

  • Boren scholars:
    Boren scholars:  Rachel Posner, Nicole Cook and Maggie Dene (left to right) were recently awarded the David L. Boren Scholarship, which subsidizes international culture and language immersion.  Photo by Adrienne Berard
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Three William & Mary seniors will soon be taking their study skills abroad to learn foreign languages with support from the National Security Education Program.

Rachel Posner, Nicole Cook and Maggie Dene were recently awarded the David L. Boren Scholarship, which subsidizes international culture and language immersion. Christen Scalfano ’18 was also awarded a Boren, but decided to accept an offer from the Peace Corps instead.

“Receiving the scholarship validated my chosen academic path and future career goals,” said Dene, who will be moving to Jordan to study Arabic. “I’m very excited to be back in the Arabic speaking world after living in Qatar and studying abroad in Morocco and Oman.”

The Boren scholarship program provides U.S. undergraduate students with resources to acquire language skills and experience in countries considered critical to future U.S. security, according to a press release from the NSEP.

In exchange for funding, Boren recipients must agree to work in the federal government for at least one year following completion of their studies. Dene plans to fulfill the federal service requirement by becoming a regional area specialist officer in the U.S. Air Force.

“It was an easy choice after growing up as an Air Force kid,” Dene said.

Cook will be moving to China to study Mandarin with the goal of one day working as an analyst within the U.S. intelligence community. As a student researcher at W&M, she conducted interviews to examine how the 2016 U.S. presidential election was portrayed in Chinese media.

“I feel blessed to have been awarded such a prestigious opportunity,” Cook said. “I knew I wanted to return to China following graduation to cement my language skills. Without this scholarship, I wouldn't be able to carry out my dream of living and studying in China.”

Posner plans to move to India, study Hindi and work on sustainable development initiatives. She said her passion for development work was further ignited after Indian scholar and environmental activist Vandana Shiva visited William & Mary for the COLL 300 series last month.

“Having already visited her farm last time I was in India, she reminded me how important it is for individuals to take actions to learn about sustainability and incorporate it into our lives,” Posner said. “My career interests have always been centered around fostering individual connections with people.”

This year, a total of 794 undergraduate students applied for the Boren. Less than 30 percent of applicants were accepted. The 2018 Boren winners will live in 38 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. They will study 33 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,” said University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who as a U.S. senator was the principal author of legislation that created the NSEP and the scholarships that bear his name.

“As we seek to lead through partnerships, understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential," he said.