Allegheny Senior Receives Boren Scholarship to Work and Study in Brazil

Allegheny College senior Yadira Sánchez-Esparza has received a prestigious Boren Scholarship and will move to Salvador, Brazil, in February 2022 to work and study through December 2023.

Allegheny College senior Yadira Sanchez-Esparza has been awarded a Boren Scholarship.
Allegheny College senior Yadira Sanchez-Esparza has been awarded a Boren Scholarship.

With $25,000 funding from the Boren program, Sánchez-Esparza will be able to intern at a feminist nonprofit organization that focuses on ending gendered violence in Brazil. At a local university, the Federal University of Bahia, she will take classes that discuss gender issues in Brazil and also take Portuguese language classes.

“My journey to receiving the Boren truly started sophomore year when I began applying for other scholarships,” said Sánchez-Esparza. “The process of writing allowed me an opportunity to self-reflect and hone in on my goals for the future, making me a more developed writer and allowed me to find my purpose. To secure the Boren grant, I wrote an essay explaining the significance of Brazil, my proposed country, to the United States’ national security. It also included an expanded personal statement that connected Portuguese to my future plans in how I would fulfill the federal service requirement after the program.”

The Boren Scholarships and Fellowships were created by David L. Boren and are sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP). The scholarship is meant to encourage students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad programs. Administered by the Institute of International Education on behalf of NSEP, a limited number of scholarships were awarded across the nation.

Allegheny Assistant Professor of History and Religious Studies and Director of Fellowship Advising Patrick Jackson, who initially encouraged Sánchez-Esparza to apply, saw the scholarship as an invaluable opportunity.

“Yadira has worked hard to come up with a vision of the future that she’s heading toward and has methodically pursued every opportunity that would bring her closer to achieving her goals,” said Jackson. “What this means in practice is that she’s applied to a number of fellowships that didn’t work out. Along the way, her vision has gotten much sharper and more mature. I don’t doubt that all the work we did on her unsuccessful applications played a major role in ultimately making the Boren application successful. She is well set up to meet the professional goals that she’s developed for herself over the course of her time at the College.”

Sánchez-Esparza transferred to Allegheny from Warren Wilson College, thanks in part to the efforts of Professor Laura Reeck, International Studies Program Chair. “Yadira and I started talking before she came to Allegheny. I was immediately struck by her sense of purpose and determination. She took my Introduction to International Studies course and wrote a paper then connected to the topic that she has since pursued in her senior project — how feminist movements in Mexico have mobilized to respond to feminicide,” said Reeck.

The accomplishment of getting a Boren Scholarship brings Sánchez-Esparza full circle, said Reeck. “She began studying Portuguese on her own with the help of a tutor in her sophomore year at Allegheny, then she spent a summer teaching gender and sexuality classes in Brazil as part of the Bonner Program, and now she will further all this through a Boren award.”

Sánchez-Esparza is from Salem, Oregon. She is a double major in international studies and Spanish. She has been involved with the International Education Office and International Club, participating in activities such as food drives, and she serves as a mentor for younger students.

Sánchez-Esparza has been extremely involved in the Bonner Program and is currently a Bonner senior intern. “Success in my life would be engaging in work that I am passionate about while supporting the communities I am a part of,” said Sánchez-Esparza.

After returning to the United States, Sánchez-Esparza said she plans to complete the federal service requirement of the Boren Scholarship by participating in a government entity such as USAID that is mainstreaming the inclusion of gender analysis into its programming. “Later, I intend to pursue a joint master’s program in public policy and gender,” she said. “Upon completion, I plan on participating in policy work that protects women’s rights and helps end the normalization of sexism and gendered violence in Latin America.”