Blankenship earns top fellowship award for international studies
Courtney Blankenship, a first-year master’s degree student in international relations (Peace, Security and Conflict track) at Syracuse University in New York, has been named one of four students in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs to receive the 2021 Boren Fellowship. Blankenship graduated from Pratt High School in 2015, then double-majored in political science and communications at Pittsburg State University, graduating in 2018.
She is now a graduate student pursuing certificates of advanced study in security studies and Middle Eastern affairs at Syracuse and plans to study Tarifit in Morocco,
Blankenship's fellowship award, sponsored by the National Security Education Program, funds immersive foreign language study abroad experiences for graduate students who plan to work in the federal national security arena. Through their experiences, the fellows develop critical foreign language and international skills that are important for their chosen careers.
Blankenship, along with Roger Onofre, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in international relations, studying Arabic in Jordan, is also a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) award winner.
She is currently virtually engaged in intensive Arabic classes with the Noor Majan Training Institute in Oman as part of the CLS program. While the CLS program centers on Modern Standard Arabic, she will have an opportunity to learn the Omani dialect of Arabic during language partner sessions.
“I hope to travel to Oman in the future once the pandemic ends so that I may reconnect with people I met virtually through the program and continue to learn about Omani culture,” Blankenship said.
After the 2021 fall semester ends, Blankenship will spend six months studying the Amazigh language, Tarifit, as a Boren Fellow in Morocco. She will live in the Rif region, which is the same area of the country where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer before she was evacuated in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“During my 18 months of Peace Corps service, I primarily focused on learning Darija—the Moroccan dialect of Arabic—and while I hope to continue expanding my proficiency in Darija throughout the Boren Fellowship, I am very excited to focus on Tarifit this time around so that I may further engage with people in the region.”
As Tarifit is a language primarily learned in the home, Blankenship plans to utilize intensive tutoring, time with a host family and additional opportunities to build her language skills.
All of Syracuse University’s applications to the Boren Fellowship program were funded this year. The other 2021 recipients include Ivy Raines, a Ph.D. student in political science, studying Persian in Tajikistan; Kelli Sunabe, a graduate student pursuing master’s degree in public administration and international relations, studying Mandarin Chinese in Taipei, Taiwan; and Onofre, whplans to enroll at the University of Jordan in Amman for his year as a fellow, which is currently scheduled for January through December 2022. He will graduate after completing his Boren Fellowship.
* Kelly Homan Rodoski, Syracuse University, contributed to this story.