David L. Boren Awards for International Study

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What Do We Mean by National Security?

Published in October 2010 Newsletter

All Boren Scholarship and Fellowship Applicants Must Address National Security in their Essays

The David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships focus on geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security.  Applicants for the Scholarship must explain the significance of their study abroad experience (including the region they selected, its culture, and the language they will study) to U.S. national security, broadly defined.  Fellowship applicants need to explain how their project, region, and language of study relate to U.S. national security, broadly defined.  So, as a potential applicant, how do you explain the relevance of your studies to U.S. national security? 

First of all, it is important to recognize that the Boren Awards employ a broad definition of national security, recognizing that the scope of national security has expanded to include not only the traditional concerns of protecting and promoting American well-being, but also the challenges of global society, including: sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and economic competitiveness. 

This broad definition of national security means that applicants studying a variety of fields can relate their international and language study interests to U.S. national security. Please see the following interpretations of national security as examples:

  • Security studies or diplomacy – Students studying international affairs, history, or political science could discuss the bilateral relationship between the United States and the country in which they propose to study. Previous topics include U.S - Turkey Bilateral Relationship, U.S.- China Comparative Law, and Political Parties in Egypt.
  • International trade – Applicants studying business or economics might make the case that the United States is more secure with stable trading partners.  Former case studies include Global Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, China-Origin Trade-Based Money Laundering: Trends and Solutions, and The Decentralization of Fisheries in Cambodia.
  • Sustainable development or global disease – Students focusing on these issues could argue that regional stability is threatened by global poverty, environmental degradation or disease, and that U.S. security is enhanced by combating these concerns.  Previous research includes HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Programs in East Africa; Famine in French Algeria: Environmental Disaster and Colonial Policy; and Taiwan: Climate Change and Energy, Beyond the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

With this broad definition, you should not feel compelled to limit your focus or concentrate your statement of purpose or essay in an area in which you are not truly interested. Rather, in your statement of purpose/essay, it is imperative that you articulate your interpretation of national security and make a compelling case about why your experience/project, region, and language are important.   

For more tips on completing a competitive application, review the program preferences  and consider the significance of the countries and languages listed.  Also visit What Makes a Competitive Application for the Boren Scholarships or Boren Fellowships.