University of Vermont

Erin Kerr '14 Receives Prestigious Boren Award

Erin Kerr has been awarded a Boren Scholarship to study in Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo during the 2012-2013 academic year. Kerr is an Honors College sophomore and geography major, and she will participate in the Peace and Conflict Studies program through the School of International Training in the spring of 2013.

Two other UVM students were recognized in the 2012-2013 Boren competition. Hannah Gibson ’14, a double Russian and sociology major, was named a finalist and placed on the alternate list for study in St. Petersburg, Russia during the spring 2013 semester. Jeremiah Rozman ’14, a political science major, was also named a finalist and placed on the alternate list for study in Amman, Jordan during the 2012-2013 academic year.

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 Michael A. Nugent, director of NSEP, “represents an essential component of a comprehensive national security strategy to address serious and long-time deficiencies in critical language expertise.” 

“The success of Erin, Hannah and Jeremiah in the Boren competition is the icing on the cake of a very, very good year for the UVM Fellowships Office,” notes Lisa Schnell, associate dean of the Honors College who works with Brit Chase, the UVM fellowships coordinator who recruits and advises UVM students competing in national fellowships competitions. “Erin’s Boren Scholarship, together with the recent announcement of the four UVM winners of Fulbright fellowships, represents the increasing recognition UVM students are getting for their deep commitment to global issues. We’re absolutely thrilled at this news!”

Kerr’s long-standing intellectual interest in the former Yugoslavia is rooted in the connections she made to the Bosnian community in her hometown of St. Johnsbury, Vt. After coming to UVM she became engrossed in the study of geopolitics through her coursework in the geography department. She took “Development, Displacement and the Environment” with Professor Pablo Bose during her first year at UVM, and then went on to conduct an independent study, also with Professor Bose, examining how former-Yugoslav countries have been affected by nationalism and colonialism, as well as how these countries fit into world-system theory. While in Serbia, Kerr plans to continue her research by examining how land distribution along ethnic lines was a factor throughout the Yugoslav Wars as well as the reparation and peace-building processes.

The Institute of International Education, which administers the awards on behalf of NSEP, received a record number of applications for the undergraduate Boren Scholarship for the 2012-2013 application cycle. This year, 1,014 undergraduate students applied for the Boren Scholarship and 161 were awarded. Boren Scholarships can provide students with up to $20,000 for study abroad tuition, travel, and room and board expended. After receiving a scholarship, Boren Scholars commit to working in the public service sector for at least one year using their language skills and abroad experience in a government position. Past Boren Scholars have worked in a variety of offices including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, or they have worked as legislative aides in Congress. As for Kerr, she ultimately aspires to work for the U.S. State Department in areas related to conflict and stabilization operations.

Kerr is the third UVM student to be awarded a Boren Scholarship. In 2009, Maddy Murphy Hall '10 was awarded a Boren Scholarship to Jordan, and in 2010 Whitney Roth ’12 was awarded a Boren Scholarship to Morocco.

Since 2005, when the university put a centralized fellowship outreach and support program in place, 91 UVM students have won or been finalists in the country’s most prestigious and competitive competitions, including the Fulbright, Rhodes, Goldwater, Marshall, Udall, Truman, Madison, Gilman and Boren Overseas scholarships.