Ten Pitt Students, One Graduate Receive Prestigious National Scholarships to Learn Languages Critical to U.S. Interests

Issue Date: 
May 28, 2013

Ten University of Pittsburgh students and one 2013 Pitt graduate will study abroad as award recipients in two prestigious national scholarship programs designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language skills. Between them, they will learn Bosnian, Hindi, Mandarin, Persian, Turkish, and Swahili.

Four Pitt undergraduate students have received David L. Boren Scholarships and one graduate student has received a David L. Boren Fellowship from the National Security Education Program via the Institute of International Education to study abroad in Bosnia-Herzegovina, China, Kenya, and Tanzania in exchange for promising to work in the federal government for at least one year after completing their education. The scholarships are designed for undergraduate students and the fellowships are designed for graduate students, who are required to complete a research project in addition to studying a language. This is the 11th consecutive year that Pitt students have received Boren awards. The Boren program’s mission is to help students “acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of our nation.”

Five Pitt students and one 2013 graduate have received Critical Language Scholarships from the U.S. Department of State to study this summer in China, India, Tajikistan, and Turkey at intensive language institutes designed to aid a U.S. government effort to “expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages.” 

The following undergraduate students in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences have received David L. Boren Scholarships.

Megan Carson, a junior majoring in actuarial mathematics, plans to study Swahili in Kenya. She would like to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in East Africa. “U.S. investment in Kenyan STEM education would greatly advance Kenya’s economic conversion to industrialization while insuring a foothold in East Africa’s most up-and-coming economy,” she says. Carson grew up in Savannah, Mo., and her family now resides in Littleton, Colo.

Patrick Farrell, a senior majoring in Chinese, political science, and economics and minoring in French language and literature, will study Mandarin in China during the next academic year. He is planning to eventually work in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. “My classes will give me the necessary training and vocabulary to engage in more complex discussions of the Chinese economy,” he says. “The rapid growth of China’s economy and the expansion of China’s political influence are quickly changing the balance of power in Asia and the world.” Farrell is from Summerfield, N.C.

Abigail Majane, a junior majoring in political science and Chinese and minoring in economics, will study Mandarin in China during the next academic year. She would like to pursue a career with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, where she has already completed an internship. “I can use my knowledge and experience to help streamline the bilateral discussion process between the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and its Chinese counterparts in order to help better defend both American and Chinese consumers from unsafe products,” she says. Majane is from Germantown, Md.

Viveka Mandava, a senior pursuing a major in religious studies, a minor in political science, and a certificate in global health, will spend the fall semester studying Swahili in Tanzania. She would like to eventually work in the Bureau for Food Security of the U.S. Agency for International Development. “My father often repeated to me that food is the foundation of health, and I’ve taken that mantra further. Health is the foundation of a functioning society. Therefore, to develop functioning societies across the map, we need to focus on food.” Mandava was born in Switzerland and attended high school in Aurora, Ohio. 

The following graduate student in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs has received a David L. Boren Fellowship.

Jessica Kuntz, who is pursuing a Master of Public and International Affairs degree with a focus on international political economy, will study Bosnian in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She also will conduct research on how public goods, such as social welfare, have been provided to Bosnian citizens of multiple ethnicities and whether such goods have reduced the potential for economic and social conflict between the ethnic populations. “Economic underdevelopment, as manifested in Bosnia, is the central challenge I intend to tackle through my career in public service,” she says. Kuntz is from Mt. Lebanon, Pa.

The following four undergraduates in Pitt’s Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences have received Critical Language Scholarships from the U.S. Department of State.

Nicholas Collins, a senior economics major, will study two dialects of Persian in Tajikistan. He is aiming to pursue a career as a diplomat. “On a daily basis I listen to Persian music, usually through bia2.com—a Persian Internet radio site,” he says. “This has helped improve my listening comprehension and also my pronunciation. Additionally, I watch at least one Persian film a week, usually without subtitles, to supplement my learning and enhance the cultural side of learning a foreign language.” Collins is from Sycamore, Ill.

Cody Dickerson, a senior pursuing majors in Chinese and religious studies and a certificate in Asian studies, will study Turkish in Turkey. Last year he studied Mandarin in China as a Boren Scholar, and now he is studying Turkish because he would like to pursue a career that involves studying and interacting with the Uyghur, a Turkic minority group living in western China. “I started taking Turkish last summer through the Slavic languages program at Pitt, and I’m excited for the opportunity to go over there and speak Turkish,” he says. Dickerson is from Plattsburg, Mo. 

Stephen Sloto, a junior pursuing majors in linguistics and anthropology and a certificate in Russian and East European studies, will study Turkish in Turkey. He’s president of Pitt’s student linguistics club, Yinzling, and he plans to become an academic scholar who investigates how social life shapes languages and vice versa. “I would like to study the Turkish language reform, a series of changes initiated after the foundation of Modern Turkey. It involved the excision of Persian and Arabic loan words, the creation of new words to take their place, and the invention of new suffixes,” he says. Sloto is from Pottstown, Pa.

Audrey-Marie Winn, a junior double majoring in Chinese and English writing, will study Mandarin in China. She is aiming to become a lawyer for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. “In August of 2008, I injured my wrist during a volleyball scrimmage and was permanently benched. My mother started bringing me magazines and books to distract me from losing volleyball. A New York Times article titled ‘Dynamic Young Engines Driving China’s Epic Boom’ changed my life. Soon, the Chinese labor force was my new passion,” she says. Winn is from Pine Grove, Pa.

A Pitt graduate student and 2013 graduate also have received Critical Language Scholarships.

Jessica Mason, a PhD student in Pitt’s School of Education studying social and comparative analysis in education, will study Hindi in India. “As a doctoral student working toward a research-based career in academia, I conduct qualitative research on student political behavior at the university level in India,” she says. “Beyond my academic goals, knowledge of an Indian language is critical as India’s presence on the world stage grows. Increased attention to education along with the economic strides being made are bringing India to the forefront of the global marketplace.” Mason is from Orchard Park, N.Y.

Laura Wilson, who graduated April 28 with a Master of Public Health degree in health policy and management and a certificate in global health from Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, will learn Turkish in Turkey. She is pursuing a career in international health policy. “One of my big interests is in health diplomacy,” she says. “It’s a field that looks at the mediating role health and health policy can play in international affairs. I’m interested in Turkey because of its geopolitical position between Western and Eastern worlds.” Wilson is from Bridgeport, W.Va.