Penn State students receive prestigious Boren Awards

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State students Scout Cheeks and Margaret (Molly) Ariotti have been selected to receive Boren Awards to acquire language skills and experience in countries the U.S. government deems critical to the future security and stability of the United States.

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.

In 2016-17, Boren Award recipients will live in 41 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. They will study 36 different languages including Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Portuguese, and Swahili.

Sophomore Scout Cheeks to study in Brazil

Pittsburgh native Scout Cheeks received a Boren Scholarship to travel to São Paolo, Brazil, during the 2016-17 academic year and will take intensive Portuguese language courses. Cheeks is pursuing degrees in criminology, global studies, and international relations, as well as a minor in psychology.

“Winning the Boren Scholarship means the world to me,” said Cheeks.

“I am still coming to terms that I was selected to receive the scholarship out of a national pool of such prestigious students and highly motivated individuals who wish to work in the federal national security arena. I am so blessed and grateful for this opportunity.”

Cheeks will also participate in a number of experiences focusing on global business including courses in international trade law, politics and culture, and managing psychological processes in different cultures, as well as visits to General Motors and the São Paulo State Government.

“I am so excited to be studying in a nation that I love. São Paulo is the most important cultural and economic center in Brazil and is incredibly diverse with people from various ethnic and racial backgrounds. I am also very excited to be advancing my proficiency level in a language deemed critical to U.S. interests,” Cheeks said.

Cheeks credits Penn State faculty and staff in playing a large role in her success. “Any time I had a concern, my advisers and counselors went out of their way to support me however they could," she said. "The Penn State faculty that I have encountered truly want the best for me and support my goals and aspirations as a student.”

Cheeks is also a member of the Penn State women’s rugby team, a student council board leader for the Multicultural Resource Center, and is involved with student groups such as Women of Color Empowerment and Blend of Traditional Heritages.

Doctoral candidate Molly Ariotti to travel to Senegal

Molly Ariotti is currently pursuing her doctorate in political science through the College of the Liberal Arts. As a Boren Fellow, the Manlius, New York, native will be working on her dissertation research at the Senegalese National Archives to help researchers better understand the colonial origins of present-day bureaucracy.

“My research examines the role that bureaucrats play in structuring the quality of governance,” explained Ariotti. “Civil servants are the face of the government that most citizens see, and existing research in political science has often only considered the bureaucracy in the context of corruption in developing countries.” She hopes her research will offer new ways for governments to think about how they interact with citizens in everyday contexts.

Ariotti also credits her adviser in helping her achieve her academic goals. “My adviser has been tremendously supportive of my fieldwork and in the process of applying for grants.”

About Boren Awards

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

“The National Security Education Program is helping change the U.S. higher education system and the way Americans approach the study of foreign languages and cultures,” said Michael A. Nugent, NSEP director.

This year, the Institute of International Education (IIE), which administers the awards on behalf of NSEP, received 350 graduate student applications for the Boren Fellowship and 105 were awarded.

“To continue to play a leadership role in the world, it is vital that America's future leaders have a deep understanding of the rest of the world,” said University of Oklahoma President David Boren.

As a U.S. Senator, Boren was the principal author of the legislation that created the National Security Education Program and the scholarships and fellowships that bear his name. “As we seek to lead through partnerships, understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential.”

Since 1994, more than 5,500 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. Program alumni are contributing to the critical missions of agencies throughout the federal government.

An independent nonprofit founded in 1919, IIE is among the world's largest and most experienced international education and exchange organizations. Undergraduate and graduate students interested in applying for the Boren Awards should contact IIE at or visit

At Penn State, the University Fellowships Office is a resource for undergraduates, graduate students and Penn State alumni seeking information and guidance regarding scholarships and fellowships funded by sources other than the University. For more information on fellowship opportunities available, visit 212 Boucke Building or

The University Fellowships Office is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

Media Contacts: 

Beth Kocher Gormley

Work Phone: 

Director of Communications, Undergraduate Education

Last Updated May 31, 2016