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IU Bloomington a top-performing institution for federal scholarships in critical languages

Jun 13, 2023

Eleven Indiana University Bloomington undergraduate students were awarded David L. Boren Scholarships by the Institute of International Education on behalf of the National Security Education Program, a record number in IU’s history. These students will study in Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Jordan and Taiwan, as well as at the Defense Language Learning Institute in Monterey, California, during the 2023-24 academic year.

Banners say Indiana University in different foreign languages IU's emphasis on high-level language acquisition and scholarship in less commonly taught languages is a key factor in its historical success in producing Boren Scholars. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University

With more than 80 languages and more Language Flagships than any other university, IU has a strong history of successful applications. But this year’s undergraduate group boasts a 92% success rate, making IU Bloomington the top producer of Boren Scholarships in the nation for 2023. Fellowships are also offered for graduate research and study; one IU graduate student was awarded a Boren Fellowship, and the campus tied for second for most combined awards.

The Boren Awards for International Study, an initiative of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office, are highly competitive, accepting just under 40% of all applicants this cycle. The awards include scholarships for U.S. undergraduate students of any proficiency level to increase their language skills in world regions critical to U.S. interests; gain a greater understanding of foreign cultures; strengthen U.S. economic competitiveness; and enhance international cooperation and security.

The university’s emphasis on high-level language acquisition and scholarship in less commonly taught languages is a key factor in its historical success. In addition to guidance from the Office of Overseas Study, Paul Fogleman of the IU Office of National Scholarships & Awards and Jeff Heerdink-Santos of the Hutton Honors College work with students to prepare them for the competitive application process.

“I am so excited for these students, as the Boren Award will provide them with incredible opportunities to deepen their cultural understanding and further develop their foreign language skills,” said Jennifer Engel, associate vice president of the Office of Overseas Study, whose department coordinates applications to the program. “To be awarded this prestigious scholarship is quite an honor. I’m so happy for these students and grateful to the advisors who guided them through the application process.”

IU hosts the Russian, Arabic and Chinese Language Flagship programs; all three languages are considered critical by the Department of Defense. While these make up the bulk of scholarships, awardees in this year’s cohort also include the less common Indonesian Flagship Language Initiative. Ten out of the 11 student awardees this year have at least one major in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, home to the majority of IU’s language programs and more than 20 nationally recognized area studies centers.

“We commend these successful Boren Award recipients and thank the outstanding faculty who have mentored and supported them,” said Nick Cullather, interim dean of the Hamilton Lugar School. “Our goal to teach not only language fluency but also global fluency aligns closely with the Boren Awards’ focus on critical language study, cultural immersion in world regions and public service. We are pleased to see so many students recognized with this prestigious award.”

The impact on a student’s career is immeasurable, as one awardee, who requested to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of their work related to national security issues, said.

“This award is an amazing opportunity for me to continue furthering my passion for learning Mandarin, and hopefully getting a career working with it,” the student said. “It is incredible to know my hard work is paying off, and the support I have received at HLS is giving me these opportunities to take what they have taught me even further. Additionally, I am so grateful I get to join a group of prestigious scholars who have similar ambitions and passions.”

Interested undergraduate applicants can contact for more information; interested graduate applicants can contact The 2024-25 Boren awards application is expected to open in the fall semester. Applications will be due in January.


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Marielle Petranoff

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