Information session on Boren Awards scheduled for Nov. 5

Sean Yoder
October 29, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Each year the Boren Awards allow undergraduate and graduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, immerse themselves in a culture, and go on to work for the federal government.

On Nov. 5, students, faculty and staff are invited to attend an information session led by Kyle Cox of the Institute of International Education from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in 232 Katz Building. Students also can attend remotely through Zoom

The Boren Awards offer scholarships for undergraduates and fellowships for graduate students to study languages identified by the federal government as critical. These students will study in areas that are underrepresented in typical study abroad experiences and have a focus on public service. Those selected for awards must also commit to working in the federal government for at least one year after graduation.

Grant Littke, director of Career Services at Penn State’s School of International Affairs, said students must identify a study abroad opportunity when applying for a Boren Award. The more a student is able to connect the study abroad opportunity back to national security, the stronger the application, Littke said.

Littke added that Boren doesn’t fund the study of languages in Western Europe, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. For example, if a student is to study French, it must be in West Africa.

Students must also be interested in immersing themselves in language and culture for the long haul.

“I would certainly say it requires some commitment, and some real seriousness of purpose,” Littke said. “They (students) need to be ready to commit a serious block of time and search for academic programs that meet (Boren’s) objectives.”

In the spring, Penn State graduate student Heidi Foon earned a Boren Fellowship to study in Senegal over the 2018-19 academic year. She told Penn State News she wants to continue studying development within the context of international affairs. In Senegal she is honing her knowledge of the French and Wolof languages.

The awards themselves take the name of the principal author of the National Security Education Program — former U.S. Sen. David L. Boren, who was most recently the president of the University of Oklahoma until his retirement in June 2018. Sen. Boren helped to pass the National Security Education Act of 1991, which established numerous scholarships and their governing board. Both the scholarship and fellowship are administered by the Institute of International Education.

Maximum awards for Boren Scholarships are $8,000 for special STEM summer programs, $10,000 for a normal semester, and $20,000 for six to 12 months. Fellowships provide up to $24,000. Study for two or more semesters is strongly encouraged. There is a campus deadline for the Boren Awards on Jan. 16, 2019. Students interested in applying for the Boren Awards are encouraged to contact the University Fellowships Office to learn more about this deadline and the campus evaluation process that follows.

For more information, contact the University Fellowships Office at

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

Last Updated November 05, 2018