Senecal wins Boren Award

Published 10:03 am Thursday, October 11, 2018

Senior James Austin Senecal has become the first Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) student to win the prestigious Boren Award, a college press release cited, adding that the award provides U.S. undergraduate and graduate students with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of the U.S.

School officials noted in the release that Senecal is a history major from Wake Forest, North Carolina, with a minor in military leadership and national security. They stated that he will spend the full 2018-19 academic year at Tel Aviv University in Israel studying the Hebrew language and the political history of the Middle East. He plans to employ his knowledge of Hebrew in examining Israeli counterterrorism efforts, the release added.

“If someone had told me my freshman year that I would spend my senior year in another country studying what is now my third language, I would’ve thought they were out of their mind,” Austin said with characteristic humility in the release. “And yet, here I am.”

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Officials cited in the release that just 221 undergraduates nationwide were awarded David L. Boren Scholarships, which are funded by the National Security Education Program and administered by the Institute of International Education. The release detailed that Boren Scholars must commit to at least one year of federal service in exchange for funding of up to $20,000 for a 6- to 12-month period of study.

Following graduation from H-SC, Austin intends to pursue military service, the release highlighted. It added that his longterm plan involves graduate study in counterterror law, and he is interested in eventually working in counterterrorism for the federal government.

“My family has a long history of public service,» Austin said in the release. “In the past three generations, we have served in fire, EMS and law enforcement, as well as in militaries both American and foreign, the legal sector, social work and other similar areas. I never made a single conscious decision to join the military or work in public service. It’s just always been something that has surrounded me.”

H-SC President Dr. Larry Stimpert said in the release that “Austin has been a model citizen and scholar at Hampden- Sydney, and he is living out our mission of forming ‘good men and good citizens.’ We are proud of Austin for this pioneering achievement and for his commitment to public service.”

College officials stated that many H-SC faculty and staff supported Austin during the application process, including professors Viktoria Basham, James Frusetta, Cristine Varholy and Warner Winborne, as well as Director of Global Education Daniella Widdows, Lt. Col. Rucker Snead, of the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest, and Ferguson Career Center Director Stephanie Joynes.

Dr. Varholy, an H-SC associate professor of English who also serves as director of the Office of Fellowship Advising, indicated in the release that Austin may not be the last Boren Award winner at Hampden-Sydney.

“They would like to send a representative to campus in November,” Dr. Varholy said. “Clearly, they have taken notice of the college and its programs and hope to recruit more candidates from among our students.”

The release conveyed that Austin credits much of his success to Hampden- Sydney’s Rhetoric Program and the support of faculty and staff.

“I know that there are more H-SC students who could undoubtedly win the award, if only they were to apply,” he said in the release. “The support I received from faculty and staff was extraordinary. Without a doubt, I would not have won the award without their assistance, for which I am incredibly grateful.”

Students interested in the Boren Awards or other study abroad scholarships should contact the Office of Fellowship Advising, officials noted in conclusion. They added the instruction to visit www.borenawards. org to learn about the Boren Award application process.