Released: August 23, 2010
Lincoln, Neb. - Zach Smith, a junior music and political science major from East Troy, Wis., is one of two University of Nebraska–Lincoln recipients of a prestigious Boren Scholarship. He travels to Amman, Jordan, this summer and fall to study the Arabic language and international relations in a program run by the Council on International Educational Exchange.
Boren Scholarships are funded by the National Security Education Program, which focuses on geographic areas, languages and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. The scholarships provide up to $10,000 for a semester-long study abroad program and up to $20,000 for a year-long study abroad program.
?I was thrilled to hear that Zach won the Boren Scholarship,? said Hixson-Lied Professor and Director of Opera William Shomos. ?He is one of the brightest, most independent-minded thinkers that I have had the privilege to work with over the years. I see this as an amazing opportunity for him to further round out his education in a way that is going to be so vital in serving his career goals.?
?It?s a dream come true,? said Smith, who received a $20,000 scholarship. ?This is exactly what I want to do.? Smith will study Arabic this summer and will study both Arabic and political science in the Fall. He also hopes to continue studying music while in Jordan.
?Jordan is an optimal study-abroad environment; it is in the archeological and political heart of the Middle East, close to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the classes offered are superb and exactly suited to my major,? Smith said.
At UNL, he has worked with political science professor Michael Wagner in the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences program. Their research involves conducting focus groups on Christianity and political behavior. ?I want to do the same thing in Jordan,? Smith said. ?I want to conduct focus groups on students. How does Islam affect their voting behavior and their thoughts on politics and the West. And then, I can return to UNL and put it in a comparative study.?
Smith said he believes his study abroad will position him well to pursue his career goals of working in the foreign service or intelligence community. The Boren Scholarship requires him to work for the government for a year after he graduates.
?When I graduate, I want to get a master?s degree in international affairs and preferably another one in international development. We?ll see how it goes,? Smith said. ?Then the Boren will require me to work in government. I want to work in the foreign service in the diplomatic corps. After spending many years there, I would really like to be an Ambassador, preferably somewhere in the Middle East. I?m involved in politics now. It?s a dream of mine to do that. I hope that I would get the opportunity to pursue that.?
He came to UNL as a music education major. "I decided in my first semester that I did not want to conduct a choir for the rest of my life, although I admire the people who do. That wasn?t going to be my profession.?
He took a political science course. ?I?ve always been an armchair politician guy,? he said.
He declared a political sciences minor and changed degrees from music education to a Bachelor of Arts in music. ?I took an international relations course my second semester and realized just how interested I was in this,? he said. ?I started writing position papers. Then I decided I want to study this.?
Now, he is a dual major in music and political science. "I write for the Daily Nebraskan. I analyze policy. I read probably 10 political blogs a day plus news sites,? Smith said. ?It?s what I live and breathe. I like policy. I like getting down to the details and seeing what works and what doesn?t work. And that works well with foreign service as well.?
Shomos said Smith deserves this success. ?Zach is an incredibly hard worker,? he said. ?He is successfully double majoring; he writes a weekly editorial for the Daily Nebraskan; he is very active in political organizing. Everything he does, he does with passion and boundless energy.?
Smith is keeping a blog of his study and travel in Jordan. You can view it at http://anamericaninamman.wordpress.com/.