Sunday, November 23, 2014

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U.Va. Student Earns Boren Scholarship for Travel to Russia

 

A University of Virginia student will study in Russia next spring and summer, thanks to a David L. Boren Scholarship, which provides up to $20,000 to U.S. students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad.

Samantha Guthrie, 19, of Yorktown, a Russian and Eastern European studies and foreign affairs double major in the College of Arts & Sciences, will use her Boren Scholarship to study Russian as well as the politics of the former Soviet Union and political and cultural movements in Azerbaijan.

“I want to be able to study Russian in a full immersive environment to achieve the most effective experience,” she said.

Guthrie was drawn to Russian through her interest in the history of Cold War; while already fluent in Arabic, she found Russian to be “romantic.” She became interested in Azerbaijan because of its strategic importance, with oil reserves and the re-emergence of Islam, which had been opposed in the former Soviet territory.

“There are more ethnic Azerbaijanis in northern Iran than there are in country of Azerbaijan,” she said. “It is like twins separated at birth. It is interesting to see the different development.”

Guthrie was selected the first time she applied for the scholarship. “I am so shocked to be chosen as a first-year student, and so blessed for this amazing opportunity,” said Guthrie, now a rising second-year student. “I just hope I can use it to my full advantage and really make the most of the award.”

This year, the Institute of International Education, on behalf of the National Security Education Program, awarded 161 Boren scholarships for undergraduates to study 34 different languages. More than 5,000 students have received Boren Scholarships since 1994.

“The Boren awards are very competitive, and Samantha Guthrie has achieved a great deal getting this scholarship as a first-year student,” said Dudley Doane, director of Special Academic Programs and of the International Studies Office. “This shows the strength of our program, and it is a wonderful opportunity for Samantha to study and fully engage with a host community for up to a year.”

Rachel Stauffer, outreach coordinator in the College, taught Guthrie in a “Russia and the Caucasus” course offered through the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. She praised Guthrie for her enthusiasm about and her interest in the Caucasus region.

“Samantha is very passionate about Azerbaijani culture and politics,” Stauffer said. “I have no doubt that this will be a great experience for her. I would not be surprised if someday she is serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan.”

Guthrie, a graduate of York High School, is a member of the Wesley Foundation, Student Council, College Council and Global Student Council. Her long-range goal, she said, is to earn a master’s degree in international relations and work for the federal government on aid initiatives. The Boren Scholarship requires that the recipient work for the federal government for at least a year.

“I would eventually like to work for a nongovernmental organization that focuses on politics, humanitarian aid, or community and youth development in Eastern Europe or Central Asia,” she said. “The government service requirement fits perfectly with my career goals as I would love to use my Russian language skills to aid national security initiatives.”

David Boren, currently president of the University of Oklahoma, is a former U.S. senator who was the principal author of the legislation that created the National Security Education Program and the scholarships and fellowships that bear his name.

“Never in our history has it been more important for America's future leaders to have a deep understanding of the rest of the world,” Boren said. “As we seek to lead through partnerships, respect for and understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential.”

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