The Boren Scholarships seek to help students learn languages considered of critical importance to national security

Two Lehigh University students have been awarded the prestigious Boren Scholarship, which provide undergraduate students with government funds for intensive language studies abroad in areas of the world considered critical for U.S. interests.

Sam Ginn ‘24 will study in Serbia, while Claire Kirshenbaum ‘24 will be studying in Indonesia. They are two of six Lehigh students to win Boren Scholarships in the past three years, from a total of 10 applicants over that time.

“The Boren Scholarship is incredibly competitive, seeking top students who are globally minded and ready for the challenge of an intense language immersion,” Hunter noted. “Lehigh is clearly producing students who are great fits in both categories.” 

The Boren Scholarships seek to help students learn languages considered of crucial importance to national security, after which time recipients are required to work for at least one year in federal government service.

“So they're essentially investing in you,” Kirshenbaum said.

Timmy Dillard ‘25 was selected as an alternate for a Boren Scholarship this year, one of two alternates chosen from Lehigh in the past three years. Ginn, Kirshenbaum, and Dillard have all had internships through the Lehigh University/United Nations Partnership or have served as LU/UN Youth Representatives.

Elena Reiss, Assistant Director of Lehigh’s Office of Fellowship Advising (OFA), leads advising for the Boren Scholarship, and Hunter credited her with helping make possible Lehigh’s track record of success with the awards over the last several years.

“No Shortage of Opportunities”

Sam Ginn in Morocco
Sam Ginn '24 in Morocco, where he went with the Martindale Student Associates Honors Program last summer.

Ginn is majoring in both History and International Relations, and previously studied at the School for International Training and through the Iacocca International Internship Program. That internship led to him connecting with OFA, which in turn led to him applying for the Boren Scholarship.

Ginn also went to Morocco with the Martindale Student Associates Honors Program last summer, and wrote a paper for publication about the Western Sahara dispute and Morocco-Algeria relations.

“When it comes to international education, there is no shortage of opportunities for Lehigh students,” Ginn said. “I could’ve had an experience at Lehigh where I just kept my head down and just did my academics, and that’s still my main focus, but I’ve also been able to study in two different countries thanks to the opportunities available to me here.”

Ginn is interested in working in the intelligence field after graduation, particularly military intelligence, so the Boren Scholarship and the federal government work requirement was particularly well suited for him.

“My history work has been focused on conflict history, so I've done a lot of research on that, and I figured that it would be good for me to get involved in national defense in a way that deals with the intelligence field, particularly intelligence collection and analysis and things like that,” Ginn said.

“Invaluable Cultural Experiences”

A headshot of Claire Kirshenbaum
Claire Kirshenbaum ‘24, who will be studying in Indonesia with the funding from the Boren Scholarship.

Claire Kirshenbaum is majoring in both Global Studies and Sociology & Anthropology, with an international relations minor, and is part of the Global Citizenship Program. She previously studied in Uganda with Lehigh’s Sustainable Livelihoods Program, and also conducted ethnographic research on youth employment in Jordan.

Kirshenbaum hopes to seek a career in humanitarianism and international development, and became interested in cultural immersion after taking a Lehigh class on Southeast Asia. Much of her research at Lehigh has focused on gender equity and youth empowerment.

She is also particularly interested in displacement and refugees due to the climate crisis. She wanted to study in Indonesia specifically because it’s a very densely-populated area that’s been strongly impacted by the refugee crisis.

With the Boren Scholarship, she will study the Bahasa Indonesia language first at the University of Wisconsin this summer, and then spend four months in an Indonesian homestay and continuing her studies at the State University of Malang in East Java.

“Through intensive language study and cultural immersion, the Boren Scholarship will not only enrich my academic journey but also provide invaluable cultural experiences and opportunities for personal growth,” Kirshenbaum said. “I can't wait to embark on this journey, learn all that I can, and make the most of this extraordinary opportunity.”