MVSU’s Kayla Johnson named prestigious Boren Scholar

ITTA BENA, Miss.— A Mississippi Valley State University student has been named as a prestigious David L. Boren Scholar, earning the opportunity to study abroad in world regions critical to U.S interests.

Junior Engineering Technology major Kayla Johnson was recently named as an alternate for the Boren Scholarship and has been extended the opportunity to study in Kazakhstan during the 2020 academic year.

As a Boren Scholar, Johnson will study the Russian language and intern at Kazakh National Women’s Teacher Training University (KNWTTU) in Almaty, Kazakhstan. MVSU has a partnership with KNWTTU.

A native of Itta Bena, Johnson said studying abroad will be challenging, but she’s excited about the opportunity. 

“I am happy and nervous about experiencing a different culture…Trying different foods, activities, and gaining insight on how different my culture is from another is exciting,” she said. 

“My fear of studying abroad is being away from my family and friends. My only concern is getting homesick.”

Johnson said she’s also excited about experiencing a new educational institution. 

“I will have the opportunity to experience how getting an education in another country is different from in the United States,” she explained. “During this experience, I expect to become more independent. I’m also looking forward to interacting with new people and taking advantage of new opportunities that can benefit me.”

Antonio Brownlow, acting chair of the Department of Engineering Technology, said Johnson shocked him with her willingness to apply and accept the opportunity.

“I was so pleasantly surprised to see such a quiet and serene individual be so eager to travel abroad and take advantage of this opportunity,” said Brownlow. “Kayla is a very intelligent young lady. Because of her quiet nature, many would not know who she is, but to know her, is to know that she always gives her very best effort and she is very deserving of this honor.”  

Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Kathie Stromile Golden said she’s also excited to have a MVSU student take advantage of such a great opportunity.

“We are extremely proud of Kayla, as she is the first MVSU student to actually complete the Boren Scholarship application process,” said Golden. “Kayla was guided through the process by Dr. Lokesh Shivakumaraiah, executive director of International Relations. I commend both Kayla and Dr. Shivakumaraiah for this accomplishment, as they put in an enormous amount of time and effort to ensure the competitiveness of Kayla’s application.” 

Golden said she is hopeful more students will take advantage of study abroad opportunities in the future. 

“The Boren Scholarship is among the most prestigious study abroad funding opportunities, which also provides a pathway for students’ entry into U.S. government employment with a wide range of agencies,” she said. 

The David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), a federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. Boren Awards provide U.S. undergraduate and graduate students with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experiences in countries critical to the future security and stability of the United States. In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year. 

“The National Security Education Program,” according to Dr. Michael A. Nugent, Director of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO), “is helping change the U.S. higher education system and the way Americans approach the study of foreign languages and cultures.”  

This year, the Institute of International Education (IIE), which administers the awards on behalf of NSEP, received 784 applications from undergraduate students for the Boren Scholarships and awarded 217; 268 graduate students applied for the Boren Fellowships and 119 were awarded. The selected Boren Scholars and Fellows intend to study in 44 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.  They will study 46 different languages. The most popular languages include Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, French, Turkish, and Indonesian. 

Given the unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic, IIE will work flexibly with 2020 awardees to ensure that as many as possible are able to proceed with their overseas language study when it is safe and feasible to do so. 

Since 1994, over 7,000 students have received Boren Awards and contributed their vital skills to careers in support of the critical missions of agencies throughout the federal government. 

An independent not-for-profit founded in 1919, IIE is among the world’s largest and most experienced international education and exchange organizations. Undergraduate and graduate students interested in applying for the Boren Awards should contact IIE at or visit

MVSU students interested in future study abroad scholarships and opportunities can contact Executive Director of International Relations and Assistant to Provost Dr. Lokesh Shivakumaraiah at