Two University of North Georgia (UNG) students, both cadets majoring in Arabic, have been awarded David L. Boren Scholarships to study in the Middle East during the 2014-15 academic year. Sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), the Boren program provides American undergraduate students up to $20,000 for an academic year's study abroad.
Only 165 scholarships were awarded nationally this year out of 868 applications. In exchange for funding, recipients commit to working in the federal government for a minimum of one year.
Dr. Victoria Hightower, assistant professor of Middle East history at UNG, said earning two Boren Awards is a reflection of the success of the university's Arabic division and the support of the College of Arts & Letters.
"These types of awards are evidence of the strong Arabic program that we are building here. The Boren Award is highly competitive and for UNG's Arabic department to have received two awards plus an alternate is phenomenal," Hightower said.
Michael Cort, a junior from Peachtree City and Noah McDaniel, a sophomore from Lexington, Ky., were notified in late April that they had received the scholarship. Jacob Dietrich, a UNG cadet from La Grange, Ky., also majoring in Arabic, was chosen as an alternate.
Hightower had praise for all three students: "These students are trailblazers in so many ways, which should make them more marketable and valuable when they return and begin to think about their government service."
Cort, who is studying in Oman during spring semester, will attend the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. He spent the summer of 2013 studying in Morocco and attended UNG's Summer Language Institute in 2012 through a Project Global Officer (GO) scholarship, a federal program that funds instruction in strategic languages for ROTC students. An interest in public service brought Cort to UNG and the Corps of Cadets.
"Dr. Victoria Hightower played a big role in me obtaining the Boren. Her class 'World History in Arabic' challenged me to pursue opportunities within the field. The opportunities that I have received through Project GO, and now the Boren Award, have led me to places I never expected I would visit such as Morocco, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates," Cort said. "I believe obtaining international experience is becoming more and more vital for any aspiring leader."
McDaniel, who studied in Oman in fall 2013 on a Project GO scholarship, will be returning to that country to study at the Center for International Learning. McDaniel said he knew from an early age that a job that kept him tied to a desk wasn't for him. His interest in languages and federal service drew him to UNG.
"I want to work in the field of national security," McDaniel said. "My cousin is in the FBI, and I remember him telling me stories when I was younger about his experiences and all the cool stuff that was a part of his job. Ideally, my career goal is to work in the FBI."
McDaniel also is in the Honors Program at UNG and is a member of the UNG Patriot Choir.
NSEP is a major federal initiative through the U.S. Department of Defense designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills.
"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," said University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who as a U.S. senator was the principal author of the legislation that created NSEP and the scholarships that bear his name. "As we seek to lead through partnerships, understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential."