UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — University of Richmond graduate student Maura O’Brien of Washington, Illinois, has been awarded a Boren Fellowship to study Turkish in Baku, Azerbaijan during the 2020-21 academic year. O’Brien is the first UR graduate student to receive this fellowship.  

The fellowship is a part of an inaugural Turkish flagship language initiative sponsored by the National Security Education Program. O’Brien will first spend the summer studying Turkish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then will travel to Azerbaijan to continue her studies. 

O’Brien, who is pursuing her Master’s in Nonprofit Studies in the School of Professional & Continuing Studies, plans to use the language skills she learns in Azerbaijan to work with the federal government or a nonprofit organization to facilitate cultural and educational exchange programs that aim to strengthen understanding between Turkey and the United States.

The experience will build on her 2015 internship experience at the United Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, and her experiences teaching English in Turkey at a summer camp during the summer of 2016 and at a preschool in 2017.

“While living in Turkey, I was never able to devote myself to studying the language,” said O’Brien. “With this fellowship, I will be able to gain the Turkish language skills needed to take the next step in studying and understanding Turkey’s history and culture.”

O’Brien is one of 119 graduate students out of 268 applicants in the U.S. to receive a 2020 Boren Fellowship.

Boren Awards are administered by the Institute of International Education and aim to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. They 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 the United States.                                                                                                                                                                                           

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More on Boren Awards

Since 1994, over 7,000 students have received Boren Awards and contributed their vital skills to careers in support of the critical missions of agencies throughout the federal government. 

Selected 2020 Boren Scholars and Fellows intend to study in 44 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.  They will study 46 different languages. The most popular languages include Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, French, Turkish, and Indonesian.

“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,” says former U.S. Senator David Boren, the principal author of the legislation that created the National Security Education Program. “As we seek to lead through partnerships, understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential.”