|Two at UNC win scholarships for self-designed study abroad|
|Thursday, May 21, 2009|
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students Daniel Acker and Brooke Hoffman have received federally funded David L. Boren Scholarships to study in regions of special interest to the U.S. government.
They were two of 130 recipients chosen from a pool of 896 applicants for the merit scholarship, which provides up to $20,000 per student. The awards are funded by the National Security Education Program, which focuses on geographic areas, languages and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security.
In exchange for the funds, Boren Scholars commit to work for the federal government after they graduate from college, for at least a year, in a job with national security responsibilities. Scholars must begin satisfying this requirement within three years of graduation.
The Boren program holds that the scope of national security has expanded to include not only traditional concerns of protecting and promoting American well-being, but also the challenges of a global society, including sustainable development, environmental concerns, disease and hunger, population growth and migration and economic competitiveness.
For Acker, a rising junior from Chapel Hill, the scholarship will fund more than seven months in Amman, Jordan, for the study of Arabic, a research project and an internship with an organization that works to help disenfranchised groups within the country.
Hoffman, a rising junior from Swannanoa who was homeschooled before coming to UNC, will use the scholarship to study Russian over the next academic year at Kazan State University in Kazan, the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan in Russia.
The son of Norman and Yvonne Acker, Acker graduated from East Chapel Hill High School in 2006. For a year between high school and college, Acker trained in New Zealand and Thailand with a worldwide Christian mission organization.
At UNC, he is majoring in international studies with a minor in social entrepreneurship in the College of Arts and Sciences. He will begin his Boren by studying Arabic in Amman during from late this month and through June. In July and August, he will intern with a group that works with such unsettled groups as troubled youth and refugees from Iraq.
From September through December, Acker will study modernization and social change in Jordan and the Middle East and continue studying Arabic, living with a local family to immerse himself in the language. He also will conduct a research project on the state of life for Iraqi refugees in Jordan.
Acker said that nearly 60 percent of the population of the Middle East and North Africa is under age 24, growing up in a turbulent environment. Also, some two million refugees from the war in Iraq have settled in Jordan and Syria, joining already large groups of Palestinian refugees there.
National governments and international agencies should address the problems of these populations, Acker said: “Unless this segment of society can be given a viable future, there is no hope of lasting stability or peace in the region.”
His ultimate goal is to help promote peace in the Middle East by working with at-risk youth and refugees in Arabic countries. He’d like to work for the Defense Department or the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. “I hope to use my entrepreneurial mindset to identify further opportunities for security and stability for both the Middle East and the United States of America,” he said.
Hoffman’s immediate objective is to gain a deeper knowledge of Russia by becoming closely acquainted with one of its many ethnic groups, the Tatars. Ultimately, she would like to work for the government in U.S.-Russian relations – she hopes, as an interpreter.
Hoffman fills that role now at the Biltmore estate in Asheville, where she is repeating her summer job of last year: working as an interpreter for the many Russians, Ukrainians and Moldovans who work on the estate. She also translates documents including applications and the employee handbook.
“One of the things I loved most about being an interpreter was that my everyday work involved being a mediator, the one who explained the culture of one nation to the other,” said Hoffman, who is double-majoring in Slavic languages and literature and political science in the College of Arts and Sciences. “I love this kind of work, and I hope to develop my skills in these areas and use them in future jobs.”
Rex and Patricia Hoffman homeschooled Brooke, her sister and two brothers. In the equivalent of ninth grade, Brooke began studying Russian with a tutor. Also while in high school, she taught music lessons in an orphanage in Ukraine for two weeks. And she took classes at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, so that when she came to Carolina as a freshman in 2007, she already had taken many of her basic requirements toward a degree.
Before enrolling, though, she took a gap year to study at a Far Eastern State Technical University in Vladivostok, Russia, on a Rotary International Scholarship. While there, she lived with two host families. “It was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done,” she said.
“With the world growing smaller every day, promoting language and cultural understanding is becoming essential to a peaceful coexistence with other countries,” Hoffman said.
Congress created the National Security Education Program in 1991 to improve national security by providing opportunities for citizens to learn about foreign cultures. The program is a nonprofit organization funded by the Defense Department. University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren wrote the bill that established the program while a U.S. Senator, a post he held from 1979 to 1994.
Boren Scholarships Web site: http://www.borenawards.org/boren_scholarship
Office of Distinguished Scholarships contact: George Lensing, (919) 843-7757,