UW–Madison Students Among 2021 Boren Fellowship Recipients

For students aspiring to research or study internationally, receiving a Boren Award means an opportunity to pursue their interests around the globe. The awards, which are administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), with support from the National Security Education Program (NSEP), provide opportunities for students to study and research international languages, cultures, and global issues.

Two UW–Madison graduate students were chosen as recipients of Boren Fellowships. Samantha Helle, environmental studies, plans to visit Nepal and study Nepali, while James Llewellyn, applied for a special initiative under Boren, the Indonesian Flagship Language Initiative (IFLI), to study Indonesian. The International Division at UW–Madison has received funding from NSEP and IIE to host the IFLI program, which gives Boren Fellows and Scholars intensive language instruction at UW-Madison during the summer followed by an overseas program in Malang, Indonesia in the Fall. Meredith Whye, education, has been selected as an alternate recipient. Meredith Whye, education, has been selected as an alternate recipient.

Photo courtesy of Samantha Helle.








Helle will use the Boren Fellowship to help fund research on the endangered tiger population across the world, but specifically in Nepal. She is no stranger to the jungle, as she has already visited Nepal several times. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Helle has paused in-person research. She is now excited to return and continue researching tigers in community forests in Nepal, where relatively little is known about this growing population of big cats.

Helle’s first time visiting Nepal introduced her to the social aspects of environmental studies as well. Some of the most rewarding times for her have been interacting and speaking with locals who were also passionate about tiger conservation.

“I love working with people from different departments across the world. Meeting new people, new scientists, and supporting scientists on the other side of the world are the most entertaining parts of my work,” Helle said.

The environmental and resources PhD student has always aspired to work with animals, but it was as an undergraduate that she saw the opportunity to explore conservation. Since then, she has become extremely interested in conservation project management, which fits well with the one-year service requirement to work in the federal government that comes along with accepting a Boren Fellowship.

Helle’s experience has set her apart from other applicants and puts her in a position to be more competitive for professional opportunities.

“I would love to do conservation project management for a federal agency,” Helle said. “This would enable me to take my knowledge that I have as a wildlife biologist, as someone who has previously done project management, and as someone who also understands social contexts in South Asia to take a grant on paper and execute a conservation project on the ground,” Helle said.

She also recognizes how special the Boren Fellowship is and how this gives her many opportunities to continue her research, and respects the fact that Boren puts an emphasis on language and the cultural aspect of her research as well.

“Getting the opportunity with a fellowship that recognizes how important language learning is makes me really happy, because I understand that from a practical perspective,” Helle said. “My language skills help make my partnerships a two-way street.”

About the Boren Awards

IIE awards David L. Boren Scholarships to undergraduate students and David L. Boren Fellowships to graduate students to add important international and language components to their education by studying overseas in world regions critical to U.S. interests. The selected Boren Scholars and Fellows intend to study in countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. They will study different languages. The most popular languages include Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, French, Turkish, and Indonesian.

NSEP is a major federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. NSEP’s Boren Awards program provides 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 the United States.

In exchange for funding, Boren Award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year.

For any UW–Madison undergraduate or graduate student interested in learning more about the Boren Awards, visit https://iris.wisc.edu/funding/students/boren/.