Three UCF students recently received Boren Fellowships, which are for students interested in pursuing a career in U.S. national security.
This year’s recipients are Rachael Rothstein-Safra ’17, a history major and staff member for the UCF Community Veterans History Project; Karla Aurazo, a political science and international relations double major; and Caleb Archie, an international and global studies major. All three worked with the Burnett Honors College and the Office of Prestigious Awards to apply for the fellowships.
Boren Fellowships provide funding up to $24,000 for immersive study of the language and culture of countries deemed critical to U.S. national security. In return, Fellows agree to complete a service requirement with the federal government. An initiative of the National Security Education Program, Boren Awards funds a broad spectrum of study that encompasses global challenges such as environmental and sustainability measures, economic practices, and even historical-culture analysis.
A Historical Approach to Political Rhetoric in Beijing
Rothstein-Safra used her undergraduate thesis as a jumping-off point for her Boren application. Her thesis was on medieval Chinese literature, and she is looking forward to honing her research skills and studying intensive Mandarin for a year at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.
“As a historian, it is essential to understand the nuances of a language … so that you may then understand the society,” Rothstein-Safra says.
History is not a common field of study for a Boren recipient, but Rothstein-Safra explains the ties between historical analysis and national security by stressing the importance of studying historic political trends. “A lot of the current political rhetoric of the Communist Party of China draws on historical Chinese ideas and phrases,” Rothstein-Safra says. “It is key to understanding how they portray themselves to their people and the global arena.”
A self-described nontraditional student, Rothstein-Safra took a different path to UCF. Dropping out of high school in 11th grade, she attended Seminole State College before transferring to UCF. At Tsinghua University, she will design her own program of study, and credits working with the Burnett Honors College, the Office of Prestigious Awards, and her mentors in the history department for helping her to become a Boren Fellow.
Upon returning next summer, Rothstein-Safra plans to pursue a master’s degree in history at UCF.
Studying Russian in Kazakhstan
Currently a Francis Bok Human Trafficking Awareness Fellow for UCF Global Perspectives, senior Aurazo channeled her knowledge about human trafficking and the issue of language barriers into a desire to learn Russian through a Boren Fellowship. As UCF’s first student to study abroad in Kazakhstan, Aurazo custom-tailored a program for her studies at Kimep University in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Aurazo describes the country as a sociological and geographic portal between Russia and China, causing it to be of great interest to the United States.
“Given that Kazakhstan is rich in resources and that they have been an ally in combatting terrorism,” says Aurazo, “I think we should continue working towards consistent cooperation with them.”
In the future, Aurazo aspires to work as a U.S. foreign officer. “I believe in … serving with my neighbor, and I find joy in doing so,” she says. “I believe in building bridges, not walls, across cultures and beliefs.”
Learning Mandarin in Chengdu, China
Archie will explore the developing financial hub of Chengdu, China. He chose Chengdu, a city more than 1,000 miles west of Shanghai in the Sichuan province, because he wanted to study in a place where English is not a common secondary language, as that would motivate him to learn through cultural immersion.
Archie’s interest in China developed last summer during an internship with the U.S. Department of Energy where he explored nuclear cooperation with global partners. At Chengdu University, Archie plans to study advanced Mandarin, modern politics and Chinese governmental relations.
In the future, Archie also plans to work as a U.S. foreign officer and is grateful for the opportunities that a Boren Fellowship offers.
“It’s not just wanting to have American influence and regional security in a country, but it is about helping those people, by supporting them and their culture,” Archie says.
If you are a student participating in or applying to a graduate degree program in the U.S. and are interested in applying for a Boren Fellowship, please contact the Office of Prestigious Awards at firstname.lastname@example.org.