The Charger Blog

Senior Earns Prestigious Boren Fellowship Award

After she graduates with her bachelor’s degree in international affairs in May, Allison Mahr ’24 will head to the Republic of Georgia with the support of a Boren National Security Fellowship. She’s excited to use the award to build her skills and, ultimately, make an impact in the post-conflict reconstruction of the region.

April 25, 2024

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Allison Mahr ’24 (front, left) visited Paris while studying abroad in Italy.
Allison Mahr ’24 (front, left) visited Paris while studying abroad in Italy.

When Allison Mahr ’24 was a first-year student at the University of New Haven, she knew she wanted to apply for a Boren National Security Fellowship. She did just that during her senior year, and as she was preparing to graduate, she learned she’d been selected for the prestigious award.

An international affairs major, Mahr had been, in a way, preparing for the fellowship throughout her time as a Charger. As a member of the University’s award-winning Model United Nations program for four semesters, she honed her understanding of policy and diplomacy on an international level. She also studied at the University’s campus in Prato, Italy, as a sophomore, gaining experience living and learning abroad.

Mahr will bring together the many exciting experiences she’s had as a Charger during her fellowship. She’ll be studying in Tbilisi, Georgia, as part of a program run by American Councils, an organization focused on international education. She’ll split her time between studying Ukrainian, conducting research, and volunteering.

“This fellowship is the perfect opportunity to take what I’ve learned studying international affairs and Russian at the University and apply it in a real-world context,” she said. “I plan to partner with an organization that works with Ukrainian refugees in Georgia, and I hope to take what I learn from that experience and apply it to my own personal research on post-conflict reconstruction.”

Allison Mahr ’24 (left) with her fellow Chargers at a conference at UMass Amherst.
Allison Mahr ’24 (left) with her fellow Chargers at a conference at UMass Amherst.
Making an impact

Mahr has already gained valuable experience conducting research as a Charger. She took the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D., who has become a trusted mentor. They’ve submitted their work, which examines post-conflict reconstruction in Ukraine, for academic publication. She says the experience taught her about all facets of research, while helping her to sharpen her analytical skills.

Mahr began building those skills during her first year as a Charger, and her internship with SafeAbroad, a security service based in New Haven, proved to be a particularly important way for her to gain experience while making a meaningful impact. As an intern, she was working as an intelligence analyst when Russia attacked Ukraine. She recalls being one of the only staff members who knew any Russian or Ukrainian. She immediately jumped into action.

“I was very quickly in charge of the company’s efforts monitoring the conflict,” she recalls. “I remember staying up 3 to 4 days straight to be able to monitor everything that was going on in Ukraine during the day while still going to classes and doing homework.

Allison Mahr ’24 (left) and Sydney Altieri ’25 in their Model United Nations class.
Allison Mahr ’24 (left) and Sydney Altieri ’25 in their Model United Nations class.

“I actually had the opportunity to help evacuate the family of one of the professors at the University,” she continued. “I was monitoring troop movements and helping them find a safe evacuation route to Poland.”

‘My goal...’

Her experiences sparked Mahr’s interest in post-conflict reconstruction. It also set her on the path to pursuing the Boren award. She’s among several Chargers who have received highly competitive Boren scholarships in recent years, including Angélica Cruz ’21, Kristy Santana ’19, and Mahr’s classmate Sarah Middleton ’24, who received the National Security Education Program (NSEP) David L. Boren Scholarship last year.

After she completes her bachelor’s degree and her international fellowship, Mahr will pursue a master’s degree in public policy at the Ford School at the University of Michigan. She’s excited to draw on her education, experience, and passion to make an impact on the lives of people in the region where she’ll be completing her fellowship.

“Ultimately, my goal is to work in post-conflict reconstruction and help to rebuild Ukraine once the war with Russia is over,” she said. “Understanding the languages – both Russian and Ukrainian – and the culture by working with Ukrainian refugees is vital to crafting policies that will genuinely help those affected.”