Graduate Student to Continue Studying Arabic as a Boren Fellow

Aysha Khan

Aysha Khan BS’15

When UT Dallas graduate student Aysha Khan BS’15 travels to Jordan in September for a yearlong fellowship, it will not be the first time she’s lived in the Middle East.

She spent the summer of 2015 in Oman as a recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship for Intensive Summer Institutes from the U.S. State Department.

Now Khan has received a David L. Boren Fellowship from the National Security Education Program to further her studies in Arabic.

“I’m really hoping to become proficient in Arabic by the end of the year,” Khan said. “I was very nervous going into Oman. This will definitely be an easier transition. I learned to keep a journal to jot down words I don’t know, and after living with my Omani host family, I also feel a lot more comfortable speaking with locals.”

The Boren Fellowship provides up to $24,000 for graduate study in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Khan, a master’s student in public affairs in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, is the University’s most recent Boren fellowship winner. Hyunjoo “Eunice” Ko received a Boren Scholarship for undergraduates in 2014. Sarah Islam was a Boren Scholarship alternate in 2005. 

“At the fellowship level for graduate students, this award is not only about scholarship, but about beginning a career of public and government service,” said Dr. Douglas Dow, associate dean of the Hobson Wildenthal Honors College and clinical professor of political science.

Eventually I want to work with women in marginalized communities in the Middle East. Involving more women is critical if we want to create holistic policies that are sustainable.

Aysha Khan BS’15,
public affairs graduate student

“I’ve known Aysha since she was an undergrad. This is the crowning achievement of her long-term intellectual engagement with the Arabic language and the peoples of the Middle East,” Dow said.

During an Archer Fellow internship a year ago in Washington, D.C., Khan worked with the United Nations Development Program, which helped define her career goals by taking a development approach to countering terrorism.

“Eventually I want to work with women in marginalized communities in the Middle East. Involving more women is critical if we want to create holistic policies that are sustainable,” Khan said.

She describes her time in Oman as “the best summer of my life” because she not only achieved an intermediate-high level of Arabic, she also befriended 25 other Critical Language Scholars, some of whom will also be living in Jordan next year.

Khan also is grateful to UT Dallas for flexible graduate programs that enabled her to take advantage of a fellowship year, and for the guidance from faculty members, particularly Rubia Valente MS’09 PhD’13, a senior lecturer who taught a world resources and development course for the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.

“Dr. Valente helped me see the possibilities for a career in development work. She has been a constant support,” Khan said.

Khan hopes to eventually land a job with the State Department or the United Nations and work to counter terrorism through education and political empowerment, especially for women, in the Middle East.  

“I might pursue a PhD so that I can incorporate economics into my public sector work. Wherever I end up, I want to be involved with projects that will have an impact in the Middle East,” Khan said. 

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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