Four UW–Madison students receive Boren Awards

Four UW–Madison students have been awarded prestigious Boren Awards. The awards will allow these students to study languages overseas, enhancing their own academic pursuits and developing essential language skills.

“Boren Scholarships and Fellowships present exceptional opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students,” said Guido Podestá, vice provost and dean of UW–Madison’s International Division. “The expertise these students will develop through studying critical languages and regions not commonly selected for study abroad programs uniquely positions them for success in their careers and future research.”

A Boren Scholarship has been awarded to Emma Johnson, a languages major who will be studying Russian in Kazakhstan. Johnson is currently in the Russian Flagship Program.

Three UW–Madison Ph.D. candidates have accepted Boren Fellowships. Each proposed a project that further facilitates the awardees’ language learning and academic interests.

Philip Cerepak, history, will study Tagalog in the Philippines. His project is titled, “A Commodity History of Coconut Oil and Insurgency.”

Catriona Miller, history, will study Khmer in Cambodia. Her project is titled, “Historicizing Gender and Development.”

Nicholas Zeller, history, will study Mandarin in China. His project is titled, “National Liberation, Global Revolution: China, Thailand, and the Formation of Asian Marxism.”

“I’m very happy the Boren Fellowship program elected to fund my language study and doctoral research,” Zeller said. “Overseas research in non-European languages takes a long time, not only to learn the language, but to learn the people, their culture, their sense of their own history. There are many people keeping gates along the well-worn but nonetheless confusing and oblique road to a Ph.D. Receiving a year-long award like the Boren means at least one of these gates has been flung wide open. Without it and similar grants, serious academic research outside the United States would be almost unthinkable for nearly all graduate students.”

David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), a major federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. Boren Awards provide U.S. undergraduate and graduate students with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of our nation. In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year. “The National Security Education Program,” according to Dr. Michael A. Nugent, NSEP Director, “is helping change the U.S. higher education system and the way Americans approach the study of foreign languages and cultures.”

This year, the Institute of International Education, which administers the awards on behalf of NSEP, received 791 applications from undergraduate students for the Boren Scholarship and 194 were awarded; 340 graduate students applied for the Boren Fellowship and 114 were awarded.  Boren Scholars and Fellows will live in 44 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. They will study 36 different languages. The most popular languages include Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Swahili, and Korean.

Since 1994, over 6,000 students have received Boren Awards. Boren Scholars and Fellows represent a vital pool of highly motivated individuals who wish to work in the federal national security arena, and program alumni are contributing to the critical missions of agencies throughout the federal government.

Mark Lilleleht, assistant director for awards, serves as the campus representative for Boren Fellowships. Graduate students can learn more about Boren Fellowships by contacting him at Matt Geisler, assistant director of International Academic Programs, serves as the campus representative for the Boren Scholarships. Undergraduate students can learn more about Boren Scholarships by contacting him at