For the first time in Ball State University’s history, multiple students have been selected to receive prestigious Boren Scholarships for international study.

Those awarded from Ball State this year are juniors Kyle Carnes and Simon Webster and sophomore Madison Willingham.

The federally-funded Boren Scholarship program awards up to $25,000 to U.S. undergraduate students pursuing academic studies in regions considered critical to domestic interests—including Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The program aims to help students acquire the language and cultural competence needed to communicate effectively across borders, understand other perspectives, and analyze increasingly fluid economic and political realities.

Recipients must also commit to working for the federal government for at least one year.

Mr. Carnes, Mr. Webster, and Ms. Willingham are the first Ball State students to accept a Boren Scholarship since Emily Meer, who studied in Brazil in 2016. Ms. Meer earned her bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture in 2018.

The scholarship is part of the larger Bowen Awards Program, which includes a Boren Fellowship for graduate students.

  • Mr. Carnes, a junior microbiology major, will be studying at Lodz University of Technology in Lodz, Poland, for five months, beginning in January 2025.

    With a special interest in environmental remediation, Mr. Carnes plans to take coursework, including Polish language courses, that will help him understand relevant issues in the country.

    “Studying and conducting research in Poland with the guidance of technology experts and professionals, collaborating with international colleagues, and developing my language repertoire with the Polish language will allow me to build significant and meaningful opportunities for my career and create assurance that what I’m doing may make a difference to my nation,” said Mr. Carnes, a Noblesville, Ind., native.

  • Mr. Webster, an Honors College student majoring in mathematics and mathematical economics, will study Turkish for eight weeks this Summer in Baku, Azerbaijan.

    By living with a Turkish-speaking family and using soccer as a means to meet local residents, Mr. Webster hopes his immersion in the language and culture will help prepare him for a career supporting the United States’ foreign policy in Europe and Eurasia.

    “The Boren Scholarship will allow me to build the language skills that I will need in my professional career in government,” said Mr. Webster, a Fishers, Ind., native. “I will experience a different culture and improve my cross-cultural understanding, learning things abroad that could be useful in the future.”

  • Ms. Willingham, an Honors College international business major with a minor in Chinese, will be studying at National Taiwan Normal University, in Taipei, Taiwan, from January to June 2025.

    With the goal of working for the U.S. State Department, Ms. Willingham aims “to facilitate communication and understanding between American and Chinese entities, helping them navigate the complexities of intercultural exchange and strengthening partnerships.”

    “I am really passionate about fostering empathy among those with differing world views, and I believe in the power of open communication for national security,” the Elkin, N.C., native added. “My time abroad will deepen my understanding of diplomatic challenges and prepare me to be a greater asset to the federal government.”