The Charger Blog

National Security Major Selected for Prestigious Boren Award

Sarah Middleton ’24 will spend six months in the Republic of Georgia, enhancing her Russian language skills, volunteering, and making important connections that, she believes, would be invaluable.

May 2, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Sarah Middleton ’24 (left) with her friend Amber Kesolitz ’24 at the recent ROTC military ball.
Sarah Middleton ’24 (left) with her friend Amber Kesolitz ’24 at the recent ROTC military ball.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sarah Middleton ’24 has been conducting research as part of her Honors thesis focused on human rights violations – specifically, against women and children in Ukraine. She says it has opened her eyes to what people don’t typically see on the news. She has learned about ongoing crimes that, she believes, aren’t reported nearly as often as they should be.

A national security major, Middleton is dedicated to helping others and to making a difference. Her work and her passion for the field have recently been recognized, as she has been selected as a recipient of the prestigious National Security Education Program (NSEP) David L. Boren Scholarship.

“I was very excited when I learned I was selected,” she said. “It's incredibly meaningful to me because this is such a prestigious and competitive award. It also means I can get a jumpstart on my career and start helping people earlier than I had anticipated!”

Middleton, who is purusing a minor in Russian, will study in the Republic of Georgia. She will leave in June and return in December. While there, she'll complete an intensive language study in Russian. She’ll also volunteer at organizations that help refugees of the war in Ukraine.

“This award is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because it will give me an idea of what working in the real world in the national security field is like,” said Middleton, who interns in the National Security Research Lab with Charles Morgan, M.D., M.A. “Award alumni help extensively with networking and interviews. Additionally, Eastern Europe is my preferred area of focus, so meeting people and making connections in that region will be extremely useful.”

‘The best teachers I've ever had’

Boren scholarships support undergraduate students in the U.S., enabling them to study abroad in regions of the world that are critical to U.S. interests. While more than 1,000 students typically apply for an award each year, only a small fraction of those are awarded a scholarship. Previous Chargers – including Angélica Cruz ’21 and Kristy Santana ’19 – have been among them.

“The Boren National Security Scholarship is only given out to maybe 200 people in the country,” said Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D., an associate professor of national security and the University’s Boren Scholarship representative. “What this means is that Sarah is among the very best of the best.

“Beyond our recent Boren Scholarship recipients, the last University student to be named an alternate award winner is now the chief legislative aide for national security affairs for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, so Sarah is in very good company,” Dr. Schmidt continued. “I’m incredibly proud of the work she’s done in her career at the University, and the many iterations of her application we worked through. She should be extraordinarily proud of this honor.”

Middleton credits Dr. Schmidt with helping her to have the confidence to apply, and she’s grateful for his support during the application process. She also believes her classes and her professors have ensured that she is “immensely” prepared to succeed.

“My professors are among the best teachers I've ever had,” she said. “They've taught me to write and read a new language, and overall, just learn better. My Russian professor and thesis adviser, Dr. Daria Kirjanov-Mueller, has impacted me more than anyone since coming to the University, and I think I will always attribute any success I have to her. She has constantly encouraged me to apply for scholarships, and she has been the most supportive teacher I have ever had.”