Rhodes Students Win Critical Language Education Program Boren Scholarships

Three Rhodes College students are among undergraduates recently selected to receive the prestigious Boren Scholarship, which funds study abroad with the goal of immersing students in a language critical to U.S. national security interests. Keira Larson ’21 will study Arabic in Jordan, as will James Blan ’23 in the United Arab Emirates. Thomas Cloyd ’22 is going to Azerbaijan to study Turkish.

Sponsored by the National Security Education Program and administered by the Institute of International Education, the Boren Scholarships program employs a broad definition of national security that includes global challenges such as food security, public health and disease, cybersecurity, migration, and natural disaster response.

Beyond the classroom, intensive study of language and culture may take place in homestays with local families, in university housing with local students, or through research or volunteering conducted in the local language. Boren Scholarships provide up to $25,000, depending on the duration of overseas study.

More about the recipients:

Keira Larson, an international studies and history major from Huntsville, AL, works as a Rhodes Student Associate for the Buckman Center of International Education. She also has worked for Literacy Mid-South, located in Memphis.

“I am an aspiring foreign service officer with an expressed interest in North Africa and the Middle East, and so I chose Jordan because it remains a key player in U.S. foreign policy and in the stability of the region. Additionally, an immersive experience in Jordan would help me learn the Levantine dialect of Arabic, which is critical for serving as an effective diplomat within the Levantine region,” says Larson.

“I began my first year at Rhodes in a Spanish 102 class to continue off of my high school Spanish education but transferred into French 101 the next semester after becoming interested in French colonial history in North Africa. I have been taking French classes ever since, and I will be receiving a French minor upon graduation. I took my first Arabic class in the fall of 2019 at The University of Memphis through the Crosstown Consortium agreement before going abroad to Morocco the following semester, where I got to continue my Arabic studies. Since returning from Morocco, I have been remotely studying Modern Standard Arabic and Arabic for Diplomacy with one of my professors from my Moroccan program.”

Larson’s program is approximately nine months, beginning in September 2021.

James Blan is an international studies and political science major from Memphis. He serves as a volunteer for World Relief and Memphis’ Halal Food Pantries and has served as an intern for English Chastain Law and for the Tennessee Coordinated Campaign, working to promote community outreach and give a voice to politically underrepresented communities.

“I have always had a life-long passion to gain fluency in Arabic. I chose to study in the UAE specifically because it plays a central role in enhancing international relations and developing a deeper understanding between the Middle East and the United States,” says Blan. “The UAE is crucial for building trust and cooperation between the U.S. and the Middle East not driven by the language of conflict, but the language of diplomacy.”

Blan has taken four semesters of Arabic at The University of Memphis. His program is for one year, beginning in August 2021.

Thomas Cloyd is a political economy major from Conway, AR. He also is pursuing a minor in international studies and is especially interested in issues of national security.

“I chose the Turkish language program in Azerbaijan because the Turkic world is set to become one of the most important areas for United States national security,” says Cloyd. “Complex issues in both the Caucuses and the Mediterranean have the potential to evolve into major conflicts in the future. For these reasons, competency in the Turkish language and the culture of Azerbaijan is essential for United States national security and I am honored to have been selected to be a part of filling that demand.”

At Rhodes, Cloyd also has taken Spanish courses. His program goes from June to December 2021.

Students interested in learning more about the Boren Scholarship application process and other nationally competitive postgraduate scholarships should contact Dr. Esen Kirdis, co-director of post-graduate fellowships at Rhodes College.