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Shawn Russell speaks to students at the Language Proficiency Center-Dhaka (LPC-Dhaka)
August 20, 2015

Applied Linguistics Grad Student Studying in Bangladesh on Boren Fellowship


  • Boston
Fellowship Deadlines for Fall Fast Approaching; UMass Boston Deadline is September 1

Shawn Russell was looking for a chance to immerse himself in the Bangla language of Bangladesh when he came across information on Boren Fellowships.

An initiative of the National Security Education Program, Boren Fellowships provide up to $24,000 in financial support to U.S. graduate students interested in studying less common languages in world regions deemed critical to U.S. interests.

Russell, a graduate student in applied linguistics at UMass Boston, began studying advanced Bangla in the South Asian nation last month. He will be there through February 2016.

“The Boren Fellowship allows me to immerse myself in the local culture, thereby enabling me to improve my knowledge of the land, people, and the proper cultural norms and etiquette needed for effective communication in the Bangla language,” Russell said.

The Hamtramck, Michigan native has previous experience with fellowship and scholarship opportunities: He took part in a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program in Bangladesh during the 2012-2013 academic year. But University Fellowships Director Louise Penner says a lot of UMass Boston students don’t realize that they too might be candidates for fellowships and scholarships.

“Winning a fellowship is only partly about having strong grades,” said Penner, also an associate professor of English.. “Fulbright appreciates students with rich life experiences, who may well have struggled to be able to pursue their academic goals. These students often show themselves to be well prepared to live, research, and teach in settings outside their comfort zones. We work hard on student application essays to convey the students’ unique histories, interests, and skills.”

Women’s and gender studies major Placidina Fico and English master’s student Sarah Chaves officially begin their Fulbright fellowships this fall – Fico in Colombia and Chaves in Portugal.

Students interested in pursuing fellowships should contact Penner at now. The UMass Boston in-house deadline for October application deadlines is September 1. Students interested in Fulbright English Teach Assistantships may receive extensions if they contact the fellowships office before September 1. The in-house deadline for January and February application deadlines like the Boren Fellowships (January 28) and Boren Scholarship Program for Undergraduate Students (February 9) is December 15.

Following UMass Boston’s internal deadline, the university fellowships committee interviews all applicants. Students receive the committee’s feedback on their applications, after which applicants may revise, and the committee gives strong candidates a valuable university endorsement. Current students and alumni who have graduated since 2005 are eligible to receive an institutional endorsement.

“There are a lot of UMass Boston students who are doing some pretty awesome stuff with their lives,” Penner said. Her message to interested students:  “Don’t left self-doubt be the reason you don’t apply. Come chat and we’ll figure out where you’re at and what fellowship opportunity might be best for you.”