Seven URI students win Boren Scholarships to study abroad

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 7, 2022 – Seven University of Rhode Island students have won David L. Boren Awards, the most prestigious study abroad awards offered to U.S. college students. URI’s seven awardees place the University sixth in the nation for the number of 2022 Boren recipients. Since the awards were established in 1991, URI has had 38 Boren recipients, 34 of whom were selected in the past 12 years, along with 9 alternates. 

URI’s 2022 Boren Scholars are: Darby Donegan ’24 of Ashford, Connecticut, who is majoring in sustainable agriculture and food systems and Chinese; Suzelle Glickman ’23 of South Kingstown, who is majoring in international studies and Chinese; Leon Hartley ’24 of Burlington, Connecticut, who is majoring in computer science and Chinese; Gillian Hodge ’23 of North Providence, a major in international studies, political science and Chinese; Kevin Suggs ’23 of Pawtucket, a major in computer engineering and Japanese; and Erin Torgersen ’23 of Chester, New Jersey, who is majoring in global business management and Chinese. A seventh URI student was named but declined the award; two other URI students were selected as alternates for the scholarship.

The Boren Scholarship, an initiative of the National Security Education Program, provides funding opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests. In exchange for up to $25,000 in funding, Boren Scholars commit to working in the federal government for at least one year after graduation.

Donegan, Glickman, Hartley, Hodge and Torgersen, all members of URI’s Chinese Flagship Language Program, will spend their capstone year attending the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taipei, Taiwan, and taking part in an internship their second semester. The journey is especially meaningful for the five because of the bond they’ve built in URI’s Chinese program. 

“We all know each other,” says Hodge. “Some of my closest friends at URI are in the Flagship Program and knowing that I am going abroad with an already built-in support system is something I am looking forward to.”

Gillian Hodge

Hodge, who works to help pay for school, applied for the Boren Scholarship to help fund the cost of studying abroad, along with the experience and opportunity that comes with the chance to work for the government after college. At URI, she has been an active participant in the International Studies and Diplomacy Program and has completed the University Honors Program.

As a peer adviser with the Office of International Education, she has helped students prepare for upcoming study abroad trips, and as a volunteer with the Global Peer Ambassador Program, she’s assisted international students in adjusting to life in the U.S. She was also an intern in the offices of U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and completed two honors projects on China.

“I wanted a major that lent itself to a career that could take place in different countries and allow me to experience diverse cultures,” says Hodge. “As for Chinese, I really liked the idea of an academic program that incorporated study abroad and would allow me to get a superior level of fluency in my college years.”

Darby Donegan

Darby Donegan

For Donegan, a URI Army Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet who will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army after graduation, the capstone year in Taiwan will build his proficiency in Chinese as he prepares for a career in the military. With a second major in sustainable agriculture and food systems, he also has an interest in sustainable development issues, which he will be able to explore this summer as he interns at a farm that practices regenerative agriculture.

“The Chinese Flagship Program and this capstone year in Taiwan will prepare me with a unique skill set for this career,” he says.

Suzelle Glickman

Suzelle Glickman

Glickmandecided to pursue a degree in international studies because of the importance of international cooperation and understanding in an increasingly globalized world, she says. And knowing Chinese, one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, would be a great help.

“I hoped a career in this field would be an engaging and fulfilling way to make a difference in the world,” says Glickman, a member of the URI chapter of Amnesty International and a volunteer with the Global Peer Ambassador Program. “I applied for the Boren Scholarship because I knew it could help open up opportunities for me in the field of international relations.” 

This will be Glickman’s second trip abroad as part of the Chinese Flagship Program, having spent a couple of months in Shanghai just prior to the pandemic. In Taipei, she’s excited to participate in immersive classes in Mandarin Chinese, including group and one-on-one sessions, and professional domain classes with Taiwanese students.

Leon Hartley

Leon Hartley

Hartley’s interest in studying Mandarin Chinese started his freshman year of high school and grew as he had the chance to interact with Chinese exchange students. “It was an incredible experience for me to learn and better understand another culture,” says Hartley, who will make his first trip abroad after two other opportunities fell through because of the pandemic. “I decided to keep up with that passion throughout college.”

After graduation, Hartley plans to combine his majors in computer science and Chinese, hoping it will allow him to learn more about Asian cultures. The Boren Award will help further those goals, while eventually giving him an opportunity to experience working for the government.

“My future goals mainly involve getting to help others through whatever means I can,” he says. “The Boren is a massive help as it allows me to get my foot in the door of government service.”

Erin Torgersen

Erin Torgersen

A global business management major, Torgersen started taking Chinese in sixth grade at the urging of her father. She’s planning to eventually combine her interest in global issues and Chinese through a career in international management or intelligence. She completed an extensive research project about the U.S.-China trade war for an honors project. 

“That was really interesting to research because I was able to bring both of my majors together for the project by reading articles from both sides – written in Chinese and English,” she says.

Torgersen intended to finish the rigorous Flagship Program in four years, instead of the standard five. But the pandemic changed that. The Boren Scholarship will help ease the financial burden of that fifth undergraduate year, she says, and provide insight into her future career choice.

Kevin Suggs

Kevin Suggs

A student in the International Engineering Program,Suggswill make his first trip outside the U.S. thanks in part to the Boren Award. Next school year, he will take humanities and language classes at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, during the first semester and conduct research or work as an intern for a Japanese company during the second semester.

Introduced to engineering and electronics in high school, Suggs chose to study computer engineering at URI because he was interested in the technology and it enabled him to build on what he had learned in electrical engineering at Davies Vocational Technical High School. At URI, he has visited high schools as an IEP ambassador and tutored fellow URI students in the Japanese program.

A fan of anime, Suggs chose to take a second major in Japanese. While his interest in the language has expanded to include the country’s culture and people, he has also worked on numerous projects in the lab. He’s created a rhythm game using the video-game creation tool Unreal Engine 4, built a weather forecast application based on the web application framework Flask and React, and worked with Zebra Technologies to create an interface that would simplify and speed up the troubleshooting process for faulty printers. 

“My future goal is to find my passion career in computer engineering and maybe continue to work and live in Japan,” says Suggs, a member of URI’s Talent Development Program. “The Boren Award will definitely help because a federal job will give me more experience and maybe keep me connected to Japan in some way, but I’m excited for anything.”