| by Jason Warburg

News Stories

Students standing on top of a mountain.
Irene Fernald MAIEP ’23 (far right) and friends in Uganda for a Middlebury College summer course designing a model for sustainable drum making.

Two Middlebury Institute students will receive Boren Awards, which provide up to $25,000 in fellowship funding for graduate students to learn “less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests” and conduct research related to national security. 

Joint MPA and MA in International Education Management student Jordyn Dezago will be taking intensive Mandarin classes at the International Chinese Language Program at National Taiwan University and interning with the nonprofit Taiwan Gender Equity Education Association. “Through my internship, I hope to learn more about the implementation and effects of Taiwan’s Gender Equity Education Act,” says Dezago. “This policy was introduced in 2004 and is a unique combination of antidiscrimination law and education reform—one of the first government mandates of its kind in the world.”

MA in International Environmental Policy student Irene Fernald will be studying advanced Russian language and hopes to have the opportunity to work with professors and students at leading universities to envision their ideal curriculum to prepare students to solve international environmental problems. She originally applied for an award to go to Russia and is now waiting for the program to release its list of approved Russian-speaking countries for 2023. “Wherever I end up going, I am excited to conduct independent research and refine my Russian language skills,” she says.

“My goal is to better understand the challenges and successes of [Taiwan’s gender inclusivity] policy, and how this might inform more inclusive education in the United States.”  —Jordyn Dezago MPA/MAIEM ’23

Dezago also hopes to gain insight into how Taiwan’s gender equity policies might be transferable to the U.S. “Taiwan is one of the most gender-inclusive places in the world, thanks to decades of activism. A lot of countries have antidiscrimination policies, like Title IX in the U.S., but Taiwan’s Gender Equity Education Act also mandates that all public and private school curricula include comprehensive and inclusive education around gender equity and diversity. My goal is to better understand the challenges and successes of this policy, and how this might inform more inclusive education in the United States.”

Fernald believes her Boren Award “will help prepare me to advance U.S. national security and global environmental justice as a regional environmental officer in the U.S. Foreign Service and/or U.S. Agency for International Development. In the near term, I am excited to enter the field of environmental policy with a focus in natural resource policy and management and am interested in pursuing a PhD in political ecology.”

Jordyn Dezago and friend standing in a field.
Jordyn Dezago MPA/MAIEM ’23 (left) and her friend Cynthia on a hike in Yangmingshan National Park in Taiwan.

Both students expressed appreciation for Middlebury Institute faculty and staff who assisted them during the Boren Awards application process. “I am so grateful to our fantastic fellowships coordinators, Kirsten Nicholas and Dr. David Wick,” says Dezago, “who spent countless hours supporting me through my application process, including putting together a very helpful campus interview panel, reviewing my essays, and writing my endorsement. Finally, I am deeply grateful to MIIS Professors Qi Wang and Katherine Punteney, as well as my mentor, Professor Brien Ashdown, for writing my recommendation letters.”

Adds Fernald, “Professor Jeff Langholz encouraged me to apply for Boren as it aligned with my career goals. The research proposal I included was inspired by a proposal I developed in Professor Scott Pulizzi’s class. Professor Langholz, Professor David Wick, and Kirsten Nicholas were especially helpful throughout the application process.”

Boren Awards are an initiative of the U.S. Defense Language and National Security Education Office. Students who accept the awards also commit to working for one year in public service in the U.S. government.