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Boren Scholarship Recipients Heading to Africa to Study Languages

Boren Scholarships 2017

Ruben Murray ’19, Holly Scrugham ’19 and Ivan Solomon ’19 are recipients of Boren Scholarships and will all study languages in Africa.

These scholarships, an initiative of the National Security Education Program, provide funding for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. 

Murray, an international relations major and economics minor from Paris, France, will study Wolof, one of Senegal’s national languages, and development studies at the University of Florida and the Council on International Educational Exchange in Dakar, Senegal. He plans to join the USAID Bureau for Africa’s Office of Sustainable Development and work on international development and public health issues.

“Learning Wolof…will allow me to more effectively implement the kind of change I’m passionate about by facilitating meaningful and productive interactions with those who are most vulnerable to the diseases that globalization has helped cultivate,” says Murray.

Murray is African American and French and he anticipates that his time on the continent will have profound personal meaning. He is particular interested in visiting the Slave Museum on Gorée Island, off the coast of Dakar.

Noting his multicultural background, Murray said the time in Senegal will serve as a way to better understand his origins and himself.

Scrugham, a politics major from Portland, Oregon, will study French and Wolof at the University of Florida this summer and then be at the West African Research Center in Dakar in the fall. Scrugham is interested in the ways empowering women can increase a country's stability. She says the cultural knowledge and language skills she will attain via the Boren program will help her gain sensitivity to better understand culturally appropriate and effective methods for furthering access to reproductive healthcare.

“It is imperative that international aid work is deeply mindful of culture and cognizant of the community’s needs,” says Scrugham.

After Pomona, Scrugham plans to attend law school. She is interested in foreign policy, specifically counterterrorism and the role women play in counterterrorism, and ultimately hopes to work as an attorney for the U.S. State Department, or in a position that works to draft constitutional and ethical U.S. foreign policy on counterterrorism.

Solomon, an international relations and Middle Eastern studies double major from Wilmington, North Carolina, will study Arabic in Rabat, Morocco, first at the School of International Training’s Multiculturalism and Human Rights program and then at AMIDEAST, a leading U.S. nonprofit organization engaged in international education, training and development in the Middle East. Solomon says that the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, Darija, is the most difficult to learn — and if he masters it, he will be set to learn any Arabic dialect. He says he is excited to go to Africa and “have natural conversations with people about non-academic things.”

While in Morocco, Solomon will not only be conversing, he will also be conducting an independent research project. He will look at the country’s policies regarding diversity, examining government programs focused on integrating non-Arab communities into Moroccan society.

Solomon, who is passionate about national security, plans on using his experience and skills gained through the Boren program to become a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department.

“There are a lot of difficult problems to be addressed and there are a lot of underqualified people addressing those problems currently. So I would like to be involved in reconciliation and conflict resolution,” says Solomon.