URI students win Boren scholarship, fellowship to study languages overseas

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-2116 |
Nicole Roberts
Nicole Roberts

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 4, 2020 – Two University of Rhode Island students have won Boren Awards to study foreign languages abroad.

Nicole Roberts, a graduate student from North Reading, Massachusetts, studying biological and environmental sciences, was awarded a Boren Fellowship worth up to $24,000 to study the national language of Indonesia, Bahasa Indonesia. Ying Wu, a junior from Cranston, Rhode Island, studying criminal justice and Chinese, received the Boren Scholarship worth up to $20,000 to continue her studies of Chinese.

A third URI student, junior Timothy Berard, was named an alternate for a Boren Scholarship.

The David L. Boren Awards are among the most prestigious study abroad awards offered to American college students. The National Security Education Program, a federal initiative to expand the pool of American citizens with foreign language and international skills, sponsors the awards. In exchange for funding, recipients agree to work for the federal government for at least one year.

A total of 24 URI students have received a Boren Award since 2011.

Ying Wu
Ying Wu

Roberts is conducting research on Indonesian fisheries for her master’s degree, and she believes that having proficiency in the national language will enrich her research experience and the relationships she is developing with colleagues there.

“As a science major, my favorite undergraduate courses were anthropology and sociology. They taught me that the power of connection lies in learning languages,” she said. “Since then, I’ve been determined to revive my language learning.”

For three months next fall, Roberts will be based in the Makassar area of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, where she will split her time between language courses on the mainland and her research at a nearby island community. That will be followed by three months of intensive language lessons at Brawijaya University in Malang, Indonesia.

Upon graduation, she hopes to work for the U.S. Agency for International Development and use her language skills to advise the Indonesian government on fisheries policies.

Wu immigrated to the United States from China as a young child but had a limited understanding of the Chinese language. She said she wants to “reconnect some of my missing memory” from her early years in China. “The Chinese language is unique, especially the ancient characters and their history,” she said.

Enrolled in URI’s Chinese Language Flagship Program, which is also funded by the National Security Education Program to help students attain professional-level proficiency in Mandarin Chinese, Wu will spend next year at Nanjing University studying the Chinese language and culture. She eventually plans to earn a doctorate in Chinese, obtain an interpreter’s license, and work for the Department of State.

URI students interested in applying to the Boren Awards should contact the URI Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities for more information.