Conflict Analysis and Resolution Students Named Boren Fellows

Posted: June 20, 2013 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: June 24, 2013 at 7:10 am

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By Frances Womble

Andrew Baer. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Andrew Baer. Photo by Evan Cantwell

While both Andrew Baer and Eric Johnson are pursuing master’s degrees in George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR), they have different interests. Baer has taught English to children in Korea, served as an emergency medical technician and worked as a contractor in Afghanistan. Johnson has managed a variety of international education and training development programs on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Defense and a variety of other sponsors.

However, now they have something else in common: both are Boren Fellows for the 2013-14 academic year. The Boren Fellowship awards up to $30,000 to graduate students to specialize in area study, language study or increased language proficiency in areas that are critical to U.S. interests.

“Having two Boren Fellows is a great source of pride for the university and a credit to the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution,” says Kay Agoston, director of graduate fellowships. “The Boren’s focus on national and international security and global issues is well aligned with Mason’s areas of strength. It is among the most prestigious and sought-after overseas fellowship programs, and students who participate in this program go on to do very interesting and important work, both during the tenure of the awards and in their longer-term career trajectories.”

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson. Photo by Evan Cantwell

For the fellowship, Baer will study Portuguese in Maputo, Mozambique, and Johnson will study Arabic in Oman.

“I am particularly interested in the political-military dynamics of the Gulf region, so overseas study in Oman is a logical choice,” says Johnson about his selected study site. “Oman is one of the few, if not only, Arab nations that maintains positive relations with both the United States and Iran, making it a key player in the region. Yet, most Americans, myself included, know very little about Oman. I find this intriguing and worthy of firsthand exploration.”

“Portuguese is a beautiful language and has a rich history,” says Baer, who has worked in Korea and Afghanistan. “I wanted to do something with a fresh set of eyes.”

Baer, who plans on pursuing a medical track with the U.S. Army, is hoping to volunteer with NGOs serving stigmatized populations such as child land mine victims.

“I’m hoping to be able to walk away with questions I never thought to ask,” he says. “I think that will be a good indication I’ve absorbed important lessons.”

Johnson sees the fellowship as an opportunity to gain marketable language skills.

“While foreign language acquisition will certainly be value added as it relates to my studies, my core reason for pursuing Arabic language proficiency is to move from where I am as a graduate student to where I want to be as a working professional,” he says. “The Boren is the linchpin that will help make this happen.”

The Boren Fellowship is funded by the National Security Education Program, which focuses on fields of study and locations critical to U.S. national security. Less than 20 percent of applications are funded each year.

“You select where you want to go and describe how your goals apply to national security, which sounds very black-and-white,” Baer says. “But, it’s very difficult and tedious to make sure the bows are tied tight enough.”

For more information about graduate fellowships, visit the Office of Graduate Fellowships.

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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