Two Honors students awarded Boren Scholarships
May 24, 2017

By Patrick Kane, University Public Affairs (5/24/17)

Two Virginia Commonwealth University students will study language in Asia with support from the Boren Scholarship. Theresa Dinh will study in Ho Chi Minh City and Danang, Vietnam, while Sarah Sweeney will study at Chiang Mai University in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Boren Scholarship, part of the National Security Education Program, supports undergraduate students who wish to study less commonly taught languages. Dinh and Sweeney will spend an academic year abroad. Participants commit to a year of federal government service upon graduation.

Dinh (above, right), an international studies major, will study human trafficking and other topics at Hoa Sen University and in the State University of New York-Brockport’s Da Nang program.

“I will be researching what communication strategies are most effective in reaching young women and families in the Mekong Delta region,” said Dinh. “I would never have been able to afford studying abroad for a year in Vietnam without the Boren.”

A rising junior, Dinh hopes to study human development in graduate school before pursuing a federal government service career with the Department of State or the U.S. Agency for International Development. “My application to Vietnam for the Boren Scholarship was initially inspired by my longstanding desire to return to the country where my parents and ancestors are from,” she said. “I would never have been able to afford studying abroad for a year in Vietnam without the Boren.”

Dinh is also participating in the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program this summer, where she will research issues and trends in international affairs, U.S. foreign policy and economics. She is a recipient of the Freeman-ASIA award, which will further support her studies abroad.

Sweeney (above, left), a political science major with minors in economics and environmental studies, will head to Thailand for a year to examine sustainable development. “Studying in Chiang Mai, which is near the Burmese border and numerous natural reserves, will allow me to explore local ecological and transnational issues,” she said.

Sweeney was born in Thailand, and lived there for several years as a child. “For years, I have yearned to return to Thailand to attain language fluency and better understand my culture. Boren is giving me the opportunity to do this while also pursuing my undergraduate studies,” she said. “Over a year of study, I plan to gain proficiency in the Thai language to bring me closer to my ultimate goal of fluency.” The rising senior aims to study international development or interdisciplinary studies in graduate school, and serve with the U.S. Agency for International Development.


Sweeney and Dinh worked with the National Scholarship Office, located in VCU’s Honors College, to apply for the Boren Scholarship. The office provides support for VCU alumni, graduate students and undergraduates who wish to compete for prestigious national and international scholarships. Interested students and alumni can contact the office at natlscholar@vcu.edu or 804-828-6868.