Three UR Students Awarded Prestigious Boren Scholarships To Research, Study Critical Languages Around the World

May 13, 2022

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Three University of Richmond students have received competitive Boren scholarships to study abroad in Africa, Indonesia, and India.

An initiative of the National Security Education Program, Boren Scholars study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad. Recipients commit to working in the federal government for at least one year after graduation.

UR’s 2022 Boren Scholars include:

Meena Darvesh, a senior from Henrico, Virginia, majoring in anthropology and minoring in environmental studies, will participate in a semester-long immersion program hosted by Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The program allows participants to gain experience in the field of international development through frontline community development projects. Darvesh, whose chosen language is Indonesian, intends to focus on environmental conservation efforts.

“Environmental conservation plays an important role in maintaining the Earth's ecological balance, and such balance relies on interactions between the people and the environment,” Darvesh said. “For instance, human activities like deforestation and wildlife crimes can strip biological diversity. It is for these reasons that environmental and wildlife conservation in Indonesia is vital for American environmental security."

Olivia du Bois, a senior from Glen Arm, Maryland, double majoring in economics and journalism, will study abroad in the fall of 2022 and spring of 2023 at the Baobab Center in Dakar, Senegal, through the African Flagship Language Initiative. Her chosen language is Wolof, which is spoken in Senegal and The Gambia, and her research focuses on economic development. The Baobab Center offers intensive language study and matches students with host families that speak the target language located within walking distance of the center.

“African economic development is pertinent to U.S. security interests, as the continent is home to most of the world’s low- and lower-middle-income countries and has one of the world’s highest concentrations of conflict,” du Bois said. “Wolof is essential to promoting U.S. security initiatives in Senegal. It is the first or second language spoken by more than 90% of the population, making it an important tool for communication with traders, farmers, and business people at the forefront of economic development efforts.”

Morgan Malstead, a senior from Tamil Nadu, India, majoring in geography and the environment, will study Hindi through the South Indian Flagship Language Initiative. Malstead will complete a summer program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and then study abroad in the fall of 2022 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, at The American Institute of Indian Studies. His research in the spring will center on the environment and climate crisis. 

“India’s industrialization is predominantly fueled by fossil fuels with coal, oil, and gas accounting for the majority of India’s energy,” Malstead said. “With a population predicted to overtake China's number one spot before 2030 and a booming middle class, new renewable energy sources will be paramount in limiting climate change and environmental degradation.” 

Since 1995, 15 University of Richmond students have been offered Boren scholarships or fellowships. UR’s 2022 Boren Scholars were selected out of more than 450 applicants for about 200 spots.