UK Anthropology Student Selected for National Security Fellowship

By Whitney Hale

The University of Kentucky Office of Nationally Competitive Awards has announced that anthropology doctoral candidate Lydia Shanklin Roll has been awarded the National Security Education Program (NSEP) David L. Boren Fellowship for up to $30,000 toward study of the Kurdish language and work on her dissertation research in Istanbul, Turkey. Roll is one of 101 graduate student award winners selected nationally from a pool of 385 applicants.

Boren Fellowships provide funding for study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and are underrepresented in education abroad. The awards are funded by NSEP, which focuses on geographic areas, languages and fields of study deemed critical to national security and the stability of our nation. Fellows will study languages throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Roll, who is already skilled in the Turkish language, looks forward to her Kurdish studies as part of her Boren Fellowship and believes it will advance her work on her dissertation.

"I will be conducting research with university students who are members of the Kurdish ethnic minority in Turkey about their understandings of and narratives about individual and collective ethnic identity. I am already able to communicate with these students in Turkish, but learning Kurdish will allow me to better build rapport with my research population."

Roll will begin a year of language studies and her research program in January 2016. After returning to the states, she will complete her doctoral dissertation based on her findings in Turkey.

In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for at least one year.

"I hope to work for the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, helping to facilitate international educational exchanges for domestic and international students and scholars," Roll said. 

Roll is the daughter of Darla and Roger Pitman of Bloomington, Indiana, and Michael and Cheryl Roll of Marathon, Florida. She earned her bachelor's degree from Indiana University, and became interested in studying Turkish after living in the International House at the University of Chicago while she was a master’s student at Loyola University. During her doctoral studies at UK, Roll has received two Critical Language Scholarships to study the Turkish language in Turkey in 2013 and 2014.

At UK, Roll credits her advisor in anthropology, Diane E. King, with providing invaluable guidance toward her studies, including the process of narrowing her research focus.

Students interested in applying for the Boren Fellowship should contact Pat Whitlow, director of the UK Office of Nationally Competitive Awards. Part of the Academy of Undergraduate Excellence within the Division of Undergraduate Education, the office assists current UK undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni in applying for external scholarships and fellowships funded by sources (such as a nongovernment foundation or government agency) outside the university. These major awards honor exceptional students across the nation. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to begin work with Whitlow well in advance of the scholarship deadline.

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