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Two UM Honors Students Named Boren Scholars

James DeMarshall is the University of Mississippi’s 19th Boren Scholar. Submitted photo

Two accomplished seniors in the University of Mississippi’s Chinese Language Flagship Program have become the university’s 18th and 19th recipients of prestigious David L. Boren Scholarships for study abroad.

Madeleine Achgill of Indianapolis, Indiana, and James DeMarshall of Glassboro, New Jersey, both will study Mandarin Chinese this fall at Nanjing University in China. Next spring, each student will intern within a Chinese Tier 1 city. The award covers up to $10,000 per semester to help cover costs.
DeMarshall’s initial reaction to the announcement was disbelief.
“I’ve applied for similar scholarships in the past without success,” he said. “After receiving the news, I took about 10 to 15 minutes to process it all.
“In addition to being obviously elated about the opportunity, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly humbled. To be chosen as a finalist from among that pool of individuals is surreal.”
Achgill said she is “honored to be selected and beyond grateful” for the support from Boren.
“It’s not just a scholarship for study abroad; it’s also a huge alumni network and an entrance into a career path,” she said. “I hope to excel to the best of my ability in China and return with strong language skills and cultural competency to give back through federal service.”
The Institute of International Education administers the scholarship program on behalf of the National Security Education Program. The institute awarded 194 Boren Scholarships to undergraduates this year.
Members of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies, both students are also enrolled in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Croft Institute for International Studies.
A Taylor medalist, DeMarshall also received a U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship for summer 2016. He studied in the city of Xi’an, in China’s Shaanxi province.
“This next year will be a chance for me to go beyond my previous two-month short-term study abroad summers and truly acclimate myself to life in China,” DeMarshall said. “After completing the first semester, I’ll be working an internship in one of China’s Tier 1 cities.
“I hope the internship I find allows me the opportunity to better understand the ins and outs of China’s energy sector from the management and operations side.”
A Stamps Scholar, Achgill also received a Fulbright-Hays Scholarship in 2015 to participate in an education program in rural China.
“Because of my interests in China and Latin America relations, I’m hoping to intern with a Chinese company with business, cultural or research ties to Latin America,” Achgill said. “Some other things I’m looking forward to are joining Nanjing University clubs and organizations, volunteering in the city and traveling around China during the program breaks.”
Following graduation, DeMarshall will return to the U.S. to fulfill his one-year service requirement to the federal government. He has ambitions of pursuing a master’s degree in international business administration.
“Ultimately, I see myself spending a portion of my life living and working in China, which I have become deeply impassioned about through the study of its language, culture and traditions,” he said. “It is difficult to explain for those who have never experienced it, but there is a certain allure and mystery to China that a large part of the world has yet to encounter.
“There is an abundance of opportunities just waiting to be explored, but that can only truly be done if one knows the language and culture of the nation.”
Achgill plans to spend the summer in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before leaving for China in August.
“While I’m there, I’ll also be working for an online platform that connects mountaineers and mountain guides,” she said. “I plan to split my time between using Spanish professionally and practicing my Chinese informally in preparation for the 10-month Chinese immersion program.
“After the year in China, I hope to fulfill the Boren federal government service requirement through a job that combines my interests in China and Latin America, perhaps through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.”
Ole Miss officials said both awards are well deserved.
“Both Madeleine and James for the past several years have been at the top of our program, exhibiting excellent linguistic and academic skills and strong work ethics,” said Donald Dyer, associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and co-director of the Chinese Language Flagship Program. “Their success is a testament to their hard work and determination and the support and teaching prowess of the Chinese faculty in the Department of Modern Languages.”
Foreign language proficiency is a core goal of the curriculum in the Croft Institute, said Oliver Dinius, the institute’s executive director.
“Madeleine and James being named Boren Scholars is a tribute to that commitment and showcases the extraordinary success of the Chinese Flagship Program in taking students to those highest levels of proficiency,” Dinius said.
Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College, praised both recipients’ dedication and success.
“Both have been active citizens in the academic community and both have achieved stellar academic records,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “Their records demonstrate that they are ideal citizen scholars who will continue to be successful in their careers.”
The university’s success with the Boren Scholarship reflects the high quality of language and culture instruction provided through the Chinese Language Flagship Program and the Croft Institute, said Tim Dolan, director of the national scholarship advisement office. The number of UM applications for the Boren Scholarship went from two in 2016 to nine in 2017.
“No other students from Mississippi colleges or universities received Boren awards in 2017,” Dolan said. “Winning national awards recognizes student achievement and the high-quality programs that prepares students for success.
“It sends a strong signal to prospective students that UM students are as competitive as students at other top state and private institutions.”
For more about the Boren Scholarships, contact Dolan at tadolan@olemiss.edu or call 662-915-1798.

By Edwin Smith
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