Carissa Landes (left) and Mary Elizabeth Walters.
Carissa Landes (left) and Mary Elizabeth Walters.

Carissa Landes and Mary Elizabeth Walters have each been awarded a David L. Boren Fellowship through the National Security Education Program, which supports fields of study, particularly languages, identified as critical to United States national security.

A master of arts student in Russian and East European studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Landes plans to immerse herself in the Persian language and in Central Asian culture for nine months in Tajikistan. As an undergraduate at New York University, she gained an understanding of Russian language and culture while studying abroad at Saint Petersburg State University. In her graduate studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, Landes has expanded her expertise to encompass the history, culture, and politics of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Iran.

The Boren Fellowship will enable Landes to attend American Councils’ Eurasian Regional Language Program in Dushanbe, Tajikistan for nine months. She aims to gain proficiency in Persian Farsi and Persian Tajik. She will also conduct research for her master’s thesis on political Islam in contemporary Tajikistan, a project that examines how Islam is represented in the public discourse of the region.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to experience a culture that I have studied for the last two years,” Landes said. “With the support of the Boren Fellowship, I will gain important in-country experience, which will complement my master’s degree in area studies and prepare me for a career in international relations.”

“The Boren Fellowship provides high-achieving graduate students with an immersive experience of overseas study. Carissa’s excellent language skills as well as the critical importance of her research on political Islam in Central Asia make her a wonderful investment for the National Security Education Program,” said Mary Floyd-Wilson, the Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of English and Comparative Literature and director of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Office of Distinguished Scholarships.

Walters is a doctoral student in the history department in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill conducting dissertation research on the dynamics and impact of interactions between NATO, the Albanian government, and local communities during the 1999 Kosovo refugee crisis. The NSEP Boren Fellowship gives Walters the opportunity to reside in Albania for eleven months, where she will attend intensive Albanian language programs, pursue research in the federal and municipal archives, and conduct oral histories with the Albanian communities. The acquisition of Albanian will supplement her already strong Serbo-Croatian skills.

“As a military historian, I hope to use lessons from the past to gain insight into present and future crises,” Walters said. “For my NSEP service requirement I hope to advance this aim by serving as a historian for the Department of Defense or as a professor in one of the Defense universities.” By contextualizing the military humanitarianism of NATO within a local Albanian context, Walters proposes to demonstrate that “the military and strategic cultures of NATO’s member-states provided NATO with a framework to guide the organization’s new humanitarian mission during the 1999 Kosovo refugee crisis.”

“Walters has the background and scholarly aptitude to become a Balkan area specialist, with a specialization in military history. The Boren Fellowship will help her achieve an advanced level of proficiency in Albanian and allow her to gather crucial evidence for her significant dissertation project,” Floyd-Wilson added.

The National Security Education Program granted 101 fellowships nationwide from a pool of 385 applicants. All Boren Fellows live and study in areas of the world that are important to national security.

The Fellowships, valued up to $30,000, are awarded to graduate students in exchange for their commitment to pursue work in the federal government after they graduate.  The program encourages fellowship recipients to seek work with the departments of defense, homeland security and state or intelligence agencies.  Boren also offers scholarships for undergraduate students. https://www.borenawards.org.

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