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4 Pitt students earned Boren Awards to study language abroad

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Innovation and Research
  • Global
  • Graduate and professional students
  • Undergraduate students
  • College of General Studies
  • David C. Frederick Honors College
  • Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

Joshua Cannon, a scholar mentor in the David C. Fredrick Honors College, is passionate about helping students with scholarship and fellowship applications — especially when they’re Marines like him.

Cannon worked with three of the four University of Pittsburgh students who received Boren Awards this year to pursue foreign language studies abroad, helping them craft their application essays.

The two Pitt graduate students who earned Boren Fellowships are:

  • Joe Acevedo in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, who will travel to Tajikistan to study Persian
  • Joseph Patrick in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Linguistics, who will study Serbian in Montenegro

Undergraduates who earned Boren Scholarships include:

  • Chris Bekavac in the College of General Studies, who will head to Croatia in September to study Croatian for 10 months
  • Griffin Mekler-Culbertson in the Dietrich School’s Department of Mathematics, who will study Russian in Latvia

The awards, funded by the U.S. Department of State, give up to $25,000 for language-focused study abroad programs, particularly in critical languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese and Swahili.

The scholarship is awarded to undergraduate students, while the fellowship goes to graduate students to help them conduct research. In exchange for this financial support, Boren recipients commit to working in the federal government for at least one year after completing their studies.

Cannon hopes to see more scholarship opportunities for student veterans, as he believes veterans often come to college just to complete their studies.

“We're always interested in making people more aware of what the opportunities are and more aware of the fact that we help people achieve those opportunities,” Cannon said.

Acevedo and Bekavac served in the Marines like Cannon. Cannon and Avecedo were both cryptologic linguists in the Marine Corps at different times, breaking encrypted radio signals and translating messages. Cannon specialized in Arabic, while Avecedo specialized in Russian.

Cannon, who works in Pitt’s Office of National Scholarships and is also the campus representative for the Boren Awards, said he was proud to have helped this year’s scholarship and fellowship recipients.

“I'm thrilled,” he said. “It's just so exciting to see them be successful and to have had a small hand in it.”


— Donovan Harrell, photography by Alex Mowrey