Undergraduate Academic Affairs

May 22, 2019

Three UW students honored by the Boren Undergraduate Scholarship Program

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

The Boren Awards program honored three University of Washington students, naming Conor Cunningham and Sarah Slack as recipients, and Oliver Lang as an alternate.  A competitive award, more than 850 students applied, and only 244 were offered positions. Boren Scholarships award up to $20,000 to study language and regions critical to U.S. interests. In exchange for funding, scholars will work in the federal government for at least one year following graduation. Since 1994, over 6,000 students have received Boren awards. Established in 1991, the Boren Undergraduate Scholarship provides funding opportunities for U.S. students to study languages and world regions critical to U.S. interests (including Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America & the Caribbean and the Middle East).

Meet the Boren Undergraduate Scholarship recipients:

Conor CunninghamConor Cunningham, scholar to Latvia

UW senior Conor Cunningham knows firsthand the importance of immersion when learning a language. Growing up, he attended a French language school in Lausanne, Switzerland. More recently, he received the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship to spend two months studying Russian in Moscow.  Cunningham, an international studies major, is specializing in cybersecurity issues in Eastern and Western Europe, Russian and Central Asia. To help prepare, he’s pursuing a triple minor in: French language; Russian language; and Russian, East European and Central Asian studies. Cunningham is currently a cybersecurity fellow in the Jackson School and received a Mary Gates Research Scholarship to support his work building a comprehensive dataset of Russian political interference around the world. During his fellowship, he participated in two global research group projects for Microsoft’s Defending Democracy team on election security. Cunningham presented his findings to the executive panel of the Digital Diplomacy Team at Microsoft. The combination of Cunningham’s passion for Russian language with Eastern European history and security issues in the region prompted him to apply for the Boren Scholarship. As a Boren scholar, he’ll be living in Daugavpils, Latvia. There, he’ll live with a host family, study at Daugavpils University, explore the culture and continue to study Russian language.

“Receiving the Boren has been one of my greatest achievements thus far and it has been a huge honor for me.” Cunningham explains.  “This was my second time applying, after I was rejected for last year’s cycle, but this gave me time to reevaluate why I wanted to pursue this path and develop both my language skills and expand my research in Eastern European topics. In the end, this made receiving the scholarship that much more rewarding for me. It really signifies an acknowledgment of my work that I have done as a student at the University of Washington.”

Following his Boren experience, Cunningham plans to attend graduate school in the Washington D.C. area to continue pursuing his interest in Euraisan studies and cybersecurity. His long-term career goal is to build a career in the federal government using the cultural and linguistic skills developed during his Boren year.

Sarah SlackSarah Slack, scholar to Brazil — award declined

Bioengineering major Sarah Slack started at the UW determined to contribute to medicine. Early in her first year, she started researching in the Woodrow Lab. The Lab specializes in global health, and this experience confirmed her desire to pursue a career focusing on international health, likely infectious disease. Slack started taking Portuguese classes during her second year, primarily motivated by the uniquely welcoming culture she experienced while traveling in Brazil with her father to visit his old exchange family. Since then, her career goals have shifted towards integrating Portuguese, and what she’s learned from it, into her work. Her language studies have emphasized the importance of researchers being able to communicate with the different communities they work in. Slack envisions herself collaborating with global Lusophone communities by potentially working with the Center for Disease Control to respond to infectious disease threats in Lusophone areas. Slack was offered the Boren Scholarships’ summer STEM initiative to study in Brazil. She ultimately declined the Boren Scholarship in order to pursue a different fellowship opportunity in Brazil.

Learn more about scholarship opportunities at UW

The Boren Undergraduate Scholarship  application process is supported by the Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards (OMSFA), a UAA program. OMSFA works with faculty, staff and students to identify and support promising students in developing the skills and personal insights necessary to become strong candidates for this and other prestigious awards.