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Four UT students have received prestigious Boren Scholarship and Fellowship awards that will allow them to pursue intensive language study, internships, and research abroad and domestically over the next year.

David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program, a federal initiative designed to build a pool of US citizens with foreign language and international skills. In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for at least a year. About 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students nationally applied this year for Boren awards; 341 received awards to study in 38 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Four Boren recipients in a single year is a record for UT.

“At an individual level, it is hard for me to adequately express how happy I am for our four Boren recipients—these awards represent life-changing opportunities for each of them,” said Andrew Seidler, director of UT’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships. “At an institutional level, having four Borens in a single year is a tremendous outcome that reflects the quality of our students and their deepening interest in study abroad, as well as UT’s commitment to internationalization.”

The Boren recipients represent a variety of academic fields:

Jordan Brasher
Jordan Brasher

Jordan Brasher of Milan, Tennessee, a doctoral student in geography, will study Portuguese at Middlebury Language School in Vermont for two months this summer. He will continue studying Portuguese and conduct dissertation field research in Americana, São Paulo, Brazil, throughout the 2018-19 academic year. His research project is about the memorialization of the confederacy in Brazil.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to study abroad and learn another language, but financially it is difficult to make it happen,” Brasher said. “The Boren Fellowship will also open up many doors for me to pursue a career in public service that otherwise might not have been possible.”

Jordan Leith
Jordan Leith

Two students from Memphis, Tennessee—Jordan Leith, a Haslam Scholar and a rising senior in chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Michayla Robles, a rising junior in political science and global studies and a member of the Chancellor’s Honors Program—will study Swahili this summer at the University of Florida. They will then spend the fall semester continuing their language and culture studies in Arusha, Tanzania. In the spring, they’ll do internships in Tanzania.

“The Boren Scholarship will allow me to take both my first steps in Tanzania and in a lifelong venture into the realm of global health equity,” Leith said.

Michayla Robles
Michayla Robles

Robles called receiving the Boren “one of the coolest, most unbelievable things I’ve ever experienced.

“It’s such an amazing opportunity and I’m super excited to see not only the ways in which I grow, but also to learn to serve others in a country and culture different from my own,” she said.

Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith, of Knoxville, a senior majoring in Middle East studies and political science and a Baker Scholar and member of the Chancellor’s Honors Program, will spend six months in Jordan. The first three will be in an intensive Arabic class at Qasid Institute. Then she’ll transition to the School for International Training (SIT) for a three-month program on refugees, health, and humanitarian action. The program will focus on the recent influx of refugees in Jordan and governmental and international humanitarian responses. Her experience will include a trip to Switzerland to visit offices of the UNHCR, the ICRC, and the WHO.

“I am thrilled to be returning to Jordan with the aid of the Boren,” said Smith, who studied Arabic in Jordan in 2016 on an School for International Training–ONSF Partner Award. “As a freshman, the idea of spending so much of my undergrad experience abroad seemed like a daunting impossibility. Now, largely in part to the dedication and kindness of faculty and help from offices like ONSF, I have the opportunity to immerse myself in language and coursework that will best prepare me for the future.”

For more information about the Boren and other nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, contact Seidler at aseidler@utk.edu.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

Andrew Seidler, UT Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships (865-974-3518, aseidler@utk.edu)