The Boren Scholarship seeks to identify and support students who are interested in studying abroad and learning a less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Critical need languages include Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and MANY other languages not offered at UVM (Read list of emphasized languages).
- Are planning on spending at least one semester abroad (or a summer for students in the sciences, engineering, nursing, and other highly-structured majors) outside of Australia, New Zealand or Western Europe...
- Are interested in learning a critical need language (previous experience with the language is not necessary)...
- Plan on using their language skills in the U.S. Homeland Security or Foreign Service sector for at least a year...
...should consider applying for a Boren Scholarship. Students interested in traveling to the Middle East, Eurasia, Asia or Africa should strongly consider applying for a Boren.
Boren Scholarships provide up to $20,000 to U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin American, and the Middle East. Boren Scholars study less commonly taught languages, including but not limited to Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Swahili.
Boren Scholarships are funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), which focuses on geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security. Applicants should identify how their study abroad program, as well as their future academic and career goals, will contribute to U.S. national security, broadly defined. NSEP draws on a broad definition of national security, recognizing that the scope of national security has expanded to include not only the traditional concerns of protecting and promoting American well-being, but also the challenges of global society, including sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and economic competitiveness.
Length of Study
Boren Scholarships promote long term linguistic and cultural immersion. Therefore, study abroad proposals for two or more semesters are strongly encouraged. Preference will be given to undergraduate applicants proposing a full-year academic study. Summer-only programs are limited to science, technology, engineering and mathematic students. Applications for summer-only programs will be considered if the program is eight (8) weeks or more.
National Security and Service Requirement
The program focuses on geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security. It draws on a broad definition of national security, recognizing that the scope of national security has expanded to include not only the traditional concerns of protecting and promoting American well-being, but also the challenges of global society, including: sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and economic competitiveness. All applicants must demonstrate how their study programs and future goals are connected to this broad understanding of national security.
The NSEP Service Requirement stipulates that an award recipient work in the Federal Government in a position with national security responsibilities. The Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State, or any element of the Intelligence Community are priority agencies. If an award recipient demonstrates to NSEP that no appropriate position is available in one of these agencies, the award recipient must seek to fulfill the requirement in a position with national security responsibilities in any Federal department or agency. The duration of the NSEP Service Requirement is one year or the duration of assistance provided under the program, whichever is longer. Boren Scholars must begin fulfilling the service requirement within three years of graduation.
To be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien or national. You must also be planning to use the fellowship for a study abroad program that will end before you graduate.
What Makes a Good Boren Application?
The folks who are examining Boren applications are looking for students who have been strong in the classroom and have shown leadership on campus. But they are also looking for students who are interested in using their academic and leadership skills toward public service once they graduate.
Consider the preferred countries, languages, and fields of study. Generally, Boren Awards are made to students who will study less commonly taught languages in countries that are critical to national security, but underrepresented in study abroad. We also give preference to students majoring or minoring in certain fields of study. However, as we cannot list all countries, languages, and fields that are critical to U.S. national security, we are interested in applications for non-preferred areas where the candidate can make a compelling case that such study can contribute significantly to U.S. national security and the goals of the program.
Study abroad for a longer period of time. To encourage greater language and cultural immersion, preference is given to applicants proposing a full academic year, or at least two consecutive semesters, of study abroad. Applicants planning to go abroad for only one semester are encouraged to lengthen their time abroad by adding a summer before their fall semester
Consider government service. Preference is given to students who will make a commitment to work in the federal government. Investigate different areas of federal service that you believe will best meet your own goals, based on your academic studies and the region of the world in which you plan to study.
Identify an appropriate study abroad program. Not all study abroad programs are right for every student. Some are designed for beginning language learners and some are designed for advanced language learners. Some are geared toward social science majors and some are geared toward other majors. Some include strong experiential learning, while others follow a classical classroom model. No one model is right for all students. Therefore, you should investigate many different study abroad programs and decide on the program that best meets your individual goals. IIEPassport is an online resource that may be helpful in identifying study abroad programs
Include serious language study. Not all study abroad programs include strong language programs. Investigate the language program carefully and ask your language instructors for advice. Be sure to include a plan for continuing to study the language once you return from your study abroad program. Since the Boren Scholarships focus on less commonly studied languages, it is o.k. if you have never studied the language before. But you should do all that you can do now to at least familiarize yourself with the language.
Make a compelling case for national security. The application asks undergraduate students to describe their specific objectives and "how these compare to NSEP objectives to support U.S. national security." All applicants should review the Program Basics section of the website, especially the section that defines national security, which reads:
"The program focuses on geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security. It draws on a broad definition of national security, recognizing that the scope of national security has expanded to include not only the traditional concerns of protecting and promoting American well-being, but also the challenges of global society, including: sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and economic competitiveness. All applicants must demonstrate how their study programs and future goals are connected to this broad understanding of national security."
What this means is that students studying a variety of fields can relate their international interests to U.S. national security.
Security studies or diplomacy - Students studying international affairs, history, or political science could discuss the bilateral relationship between the United States and the country in which they propose to study.
International trade - Applicants studying business or economics might make the case that the United States is more secure with stable trading partners.
Sustainable development or global disease - Students focusing on these issues could argue that regional stability is threatened by global poverty, environmental degradation or disease, and that U.S. security is enhanced by combating these concerns.
Whatever an applicant's interests, the Boren Scholarship application's statement of purpose gives each student the opportunity to make his or her own case based on his or her own perspectives and goals. It is important that each applicant make a compelling case in his or her statement of purpose. We apply a broad definition of national security, so applicants should not feel compelled to limit their focus or concentrate their statements of purpose in an area in which they are not truly interested.
Tie your current academic plan, your proposed study abroad experience, and your future career goals into one strong narrative that makes the case for your Boren Scholarship. The statement of purpose includes two sections, both of which include several questions. Do not answer these questions one by one. Instead, you should write two integrative and comprehensive essays that clearly answer all of the questions asked.
Students will need to submit a complete application to the Office of Fellowships, Opportunities, and Undergraduate Research (email link) by the internal deadline. Please click on "Submit Application" on the right hand side of the Boren online application (and follow all instructions) before that time. In addition, please have the following sent to the FOUR:
- Two (or three) references.
- One official transcript (Transfer student and students who have previously studied abroad will also need a transcript from previous institutions).
- A one page study abroad program description
- Language forms
- Letters of support for direct enrollment (if applicable).
After the campus deadline the UVM Fellowships Committee will review and evaluate Boren applications for university endorsement. Students will then get their applications back and have time to polish their materials for the national deadline.
The national deadline is in late January/early February (see the Fellowships page for deadlines).
Previous UVM Boren Scholars
- Michael Chilton '15, Japan
- Colin Kamphuis '17, Kyrgyzstan
- Sammie Ibrahim '16, Kyrgyzstan
- Erin Kerr '14, Bosnia
- Whitney Roth '12, Morocco
- Madeline Murphy-Hall '10, Jordan
Tips for Letter of Recommendation Writers
The Boren Scholarship is funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP) through the U.S. State Department. It is a nationally competitive scholarship, and also the most lucrative study abroad scholarship available to undergraduates (students can receive up to $20,000 in financial support for their time abroad). The Boren seeks to award high achieving students who:
- Plan to study abroad off the beaten path: Any student who is planning to study abroad outside of Western Europe, Canada, Australia or New Zealand is eligible for a Boren Scholarship. The Boren also especially seeks to reward students who plan to study abroad for at least six months or longer (as this doesn't quite correlate with the semester calendar, students tend to pursue programs that enable them to be abroad for a summer and fall, a spring and summer, or an entire academic year).
- Have a commitment to improving their foreign language skills, and have picked a study abroad program which will enable them to receive consistent language instruction: In order to be eligible for a Boren Scholarship, the student has picked a program that will offer him/her significant language instruction during his/her time abroad. For Boren, there is no minimum language qualification necessary to be a strong applicant; students do not need to have reached a certain level of proficiency, nor do they necessarily need any previous language instruction in order to be a competitive applicant in this competition (though it doesn't hurt). While the Boren supports study for several dozen languages, the languages that tend to receive the most scholarships are Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Japanese.
- Have a plan to fulfill the Boren's public service requirement: In exchange for the financial support, students who are named Boren Scholars commit to working for the federal government for at least a year in a position related to national security. "National Security" is very broadly defined by the NSEP; while it can certainly include positions in the State and Defense Departments, it could also include positions with the EPA, the NIH, the CDC, USAID, and literally dozens of other positions within the U.S. government.
The national Boren committee closely examines three aspects of each applicant: 1) The applicant's academic background and how it is preparing them to pursue their professional goals, 2) The applicant's study abroad program and plan, and how those will enable the student to have a significant language and cultural experience, and 3) The applicant's overall academic and career goals, and how their study abroad experience will enable them to launch into their preferred position in the public sector before they go on to pursue other career goals.
With that in mind, we have a couple tips for how you can approach a Boren recommendation letter:
Connect the student's academic experience to their study abroad experience: As a professor, mentor or advisor you're in an excellent position to see how their course of study is preparing them for the opportunity to study abroad. You can draw on your experience with your student or advisee to comment on how the subjects he/she studied prepares her/him to complete the proposed study abroad program successfully. Feel free to also offer an opinion on how you think the experience of studying abroad and then further undergraduate language study once the student returns to UVM will enable him/her to achieve his/her career goals.
Make the case for excellence: Here, it's ok to use anecdotes to bring the student to life in your letter; talk about your experience with them as a student and a scholar. If you've had the applicant in your classroom, then it helps to favorably compare them with their classmates as well as with other outstanding students you've taught throughout the years. That said, avoid being vague, and avoid statements such as, "X Student turned in assignments on time" or "X Student had perfect attendance in my class" (True, these are important qualities, but when articulating excellence these should go without saying).
Speak to your audience: Your audience will come from a wide variety of academic backgrounds; they could be language professors, area studies or international studies professors, or they could be study abroad program advisors. They will have an expertise in the region the student wants to study in, but they may not have an expertise in the specific country the student wants to go to. Also, be thorough but also be brief; a letter that's one to one-and-a-half pages single spaced will suffice for this competition.
Finally, some administrative details:
- All letters need to be on letterhead, signed and submitted to the Office of Fellowships Advising. Students are responsible for informing writers of the appropriate deadlines.
- Letters can be addressed to: Boren Scholarship Selection Committee.