ATHENS, Ohio (June 9, 2006) -- The National Security Education Program has awarded David L. Boren 2006 Fellowships to three Ohio University students. Andy Goodhart, a junior political science major, will study Arabic and Middle Eastern history and diplomacy in Aman, Jordan, next year. Kara Mealer, a junior double-majoring in Asian studies and urban geography, will spend next year learning Vietnamese and studying underrepresented populations in Hanoi, Vietnam. Michael Cunnington, a senior political science major, will spend spring quarter in Muscat, Oman, studying Arabic and how Oman's empirical past has shaped its modern foreign policy.
In Jordan, Goodhart will gain expertise in Middle Eastern culture and diplomacy while researching for his undergraduate thesis on Islamist and early Israeli militant religious organizations. He chose Jordan as a safe and strategic crossroads among the West Bank, Syria and Iraq.
"For effective foreign policy, we need more people who really understand the cultures of the countries we are dealing with, people who know those societies and can interact with them in a productive way," Goodhart said. "Especially in the Middle East – one of the most important areas in terms of U.S. security interests – we're exerting a lot of energy there in a lot of directions, and there's plenty of room for improvement."
Mealer will apply her knowledge of human geography to study the social values and political issues of underrepresented populations in Hanoi. She will also examine how, and to what extent, the Vietnamese government affects this population's values and addresses their concerns.
"For me, Vietnam stands for perseverance," Mealer said. "Considering past occupation from the French, Chinese and Americans, it's remarkable that Vietnam is even a country. They have shown tremendous resilience, and I have a great respect for that."
Cunnington will participate in a program in Oman dedicated to Middle Eastern diplomacy, run by the School of International Training. From February to mid-May, 2007, he will look at Oman's foreign policy during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and examine how its past empirical links to Africa, Iran and the Indian sub-continent during that time affect Oman's foreign policy today.
"Oman really defies most people's perceptions of the Middle East," Cunnington said. "It is a multi-cultural society of people not just from the Arab peninsula, but also from Africa, the Indian sub-continent and Iran. Oman has played a distinctive role in the Middle East as a former empire that stretched from Pakistan to Zanzibar, and this gives the country a unique outlook in terms of foreign policy."
Goodhart serves as president of the Ohio University Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. He will graduate with a combination bachelor's/master's degree in political science through the Honors Tutorial College. After graduation he plans to join the Foreign Service.
"One of the qualities I find most distinctive about Andy is his inquisitiveness," said Patricia Weitsman, associate professor of political science. "I really enjoy working with him, because the way he approaches the world raises questions for me as well. He brings a fresh perspective to all that he studies, and his enthusiasm for learning is contagious."
Mealer is a resident assistant at Sargeant Hall and an active member of the Association of Cultural Exchange. She volunteers with at the Dairy Barn and for various organizations in the community. After graduation, she hopes to serve in the Peace Corps and possibly to attend graduate school. Her professional goal is to work for the United Nations, or for a non-profit organization that focuses on sustainable development, or the advancement of women's rights or human rights.
"Kara is one of the most motivated students I've worked with. She did everything she could to make this opportunity happen," said Risa Whitson, assistant professor of geography. "She's interested in issues that are very important in contemporary society… What she wants to study are exactly the things that affect the national security and stability of countries."
Cunnington will graduate in 2007 with a minor in geography and a certificate in East Asian studies. During fall quarter 2004, he studied in China at the Ohio-Shandong Center in East Asia. After his study in Oman, he plans to return to the Middle East for an intensive summer Arabic language program in Sa'aan, Yemen. He plans to pursue a master's degree in international affairs, international relations or national security. His professional goal is to secure a career with the State Department, working either at an embassy in the Middle East, or in Asia as a political officer.
"Mike is an extremely resourceful student," said Sung-Ho Kim, associate professor of political science. "He explores meaningful and appropriate academic and career choices without being told or advised by others. His study in China of the Chinese language and culture is proof of his passion for learning other cultures."
The NSEP Scholarship program offers funding for U.S. undergraduate students to study world regions critical to U.S. interest, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. NSEP was founded to teach American students about areas of the world important to national security. In exchange, NSEP Scholars agree to seek work in the federal government. These three NSEP Scholars were among 141 students selected from a pool of 720 nominees nationwide.
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