| by Jason Warburg

News Stories

Bigelow, Justin
Justin Bigelow MANPTS ’26 in front of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies on the Middlebury Institute campus.

Two students will have the opportunity to hone their language skills while gaining paid professional experience abroad, all before completing their degrees.

Middlebury Institute students Justin Bigelow ’26 and Michael Burton ’25 have both been named finalists (winners) in the highly competitive international Boren Awards—earning fellowships that provide up to $25,000 in funding for graduate students to learn strategically significant languages while conducting research related to national security.

Bigelow plans to study Mandarin in Taiwan, while Burton aims to improve his Russian in Kazakhstan. Both are enrolled in the MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program.

Pathway to Public Service Leads Through Taiwan

“I applied for a Boren fellowship for a chance to greatly improve my Mandarin language skills and travel to a new part of the world,” says Bigelow. “The Boren fellowship also provides an excellent pathway to a career in public service.”  

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

I wouldn’t have been able to win a Boren if it wasn’t for the excellent language training students receive at the Middlebury Institute.
— Justin Bigelow MANPTS ’26

Bigelow appreciates the training and support he has received at the Institute. 

“I strongly believe I wouldn’t have been able to win a Boren if it wasn’t for the excellent language training students receive. Through a language scholarship, I was able to attend Middlebury College’s intensive summer language program, where my Mandarin journey began. Since then I’ve been able to take intermediate language classes, and I hope to enroll in advanced classes when I return from my Boren year.”

The coming year promises to be a genuinely immersive language education experience.

“I’m looking forward to exploring Taiwan and being able to use my language skills in daily life,” Bigelow said.

Burton, Michael
Michael Burton MANPTS ’25 will use his Boren Award to study Russian in Kazakhstan.

Making Connections in Kazakhstan

Michael Burton is also eager to immerse himself in a different language and culture.

“I wanted to give myself an opportunity to live in an environment where people spoke Russian and I could not fall back on English.”

Born in the United Kingdom, Burton has lived in Ireland and the United States, but has never been to Asia.

“I want to see how people live when raised in a completely different environment and am very excited to take in their worldview.”

He sees the fellowship as both an opportunity and an experience.

“I am most looking forward to living with a host family. I’ve met many colleagues who said their favorite part of studying abroad was the connections they made, and I hope I can be both a good guest and a long-term friend.”

Like his classmate, Burton hopes to use the Boren experience as a springboard toward a position with the U.S. government.

Both students received support from Professor David Wick and the Fellowships team.