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Jackson School students, FLAS recipients win national Boren Scholarships and Fellowships

May 2, 2018

Benjamin Kantner

Benjamin Kanter, a graduate student in international studies, wins a Boren Scholarship to study Portuguese in Brazil

Several Jackson School students have been awarded David L. Boren Fellowships for the academic year 2018-2019. Benjamin Kantner, who is pursuing a M.A. in International Studies with a focus on political ecology in the Brazilian Amazon, will head to Brazil to further his Portuguese language skills. He boosted his language learning by also being selected as a Center for Global Studies Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow (Portuguese) in Summer 2017 and Academic Year 2017-2018, which led him to ethnographic research with an indigenous community in the Tapajós Basin. Both the Center for West European Studies, also a federally-funded resource center housed in the Jackson School, and the Center for Global Studies, support faculty in Portuguese language instruction, including for Kantner. Another Jackson School graduate student also won the Boren Fellowship while Sarah Leibson, a Korean Studies and International Studies double major, was selected for a scholarship to study abroad in South Korea.

Sarah Leibson

2018-19 Boren Scholarship Winner Sarah Leibson

“While this will be my fourth time going back to South Korea to study, I can’t wait for what’s in store,” says Leibson. “In addition to improving my Korean language skills, my personal goals for this upcoming trip include running in the Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Run (for the second time!), hiking Hallasan, visiting Ulleungdo, and keeping up my Mandarin skills.” In summer 2015, Leibson studied at Yonsei University, and in summer 2017 at Seoul National University on a federally-funded Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, awarded by the Jackson School’s East Asia Center. After graduation, Leibson hopes to undertake a graduate program with a focus on International Relations and East Asia.

“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,” says University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who as a U.S. Senator was the principal author of the legislation that created the National Security Education Program and the scholarships and fellowships that bear his name. “As we seek to lead through partnerships, understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential.”

This year, the Institute of International Education, which administers the awards on behalf of National Security Education Program, received 794 applications from undergraduate students for the Boren Scholarship and 221 were awarded; 300 graduate students applied for the Boren Fellowship and 120 were awarded. Boren Scholars and Fellows will live in 38 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. They will study 33 different languages. The most popular languages include Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Swahili, and Korean.

About the Boren Scholarship
David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), a major federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. Boren Awards provide U.S. undergraduate and graduate students with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of our nation. In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year. “The National Security Education Program,” according to Dr. Michael A. Nugent, NSEP Director, “is helping change the U.S. higher education system and the way Americans approach the study of foreign languages and cultures.”

Since 1994, over 6,000 students have received Boren Awards. Boren Scholars and Fellows represent a vital pool of highly motivated individuals who wish to work in the federal national security arena, and program alumni are contributing to the critical missions of agencies throughout the federal government. An independent not-for-profit founded in 1919, IIE is among the world’s largest and most experienced international education and exchange organizations. Undergraduate and graduate students interested in applying for the Boren Awards should contact IIE at or visit