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GC's first Boren Scholar to study Urdu in India

Jonathan Mangrum is Georgia College’s first David L. Boren Scholar—a prestigious award that will enable him to spend his fall 2018 semester learning Urdu in Lucknow, India. There the junior economics and political science major will gain a cultural perspective while staying with a host family, but first, he will develop his skills through intensive study of the language at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mangrum will learn first, second and third-year Urdu through lectures, discussions, tutoring, trips to cultural Indian historic sites, skits, poetry and songs.

“The word that keeps coming to mind is ‘speechless,’” he said. “I’m most looking forward to getting to know the cohort of students because they come from all over. Beyond that, I’ve always enjoyed learning and traveling in groups. So, I’m excited to immerse myself in the country, city and culture and meet the people behind the culture who speak the language I’m learning—just the whole in-depth experience.”

The Institute of International Education on behalf of the National Security Education Program awarded 221 Boren Scholarships out of a pool of 794 undergraduate applications. The summer study program is made possible through the South Asian Flagship Languages Initiative, and the abroad program is sponsored by the American Councils for International Education.

Mangrum’s Boren Scholarship application process began after a discussion with National Scholarships Office Coordinator Anna Whiteside.

“This is something she brought to my attention, which deals with government service,” he said. “I applied over the December break. She helped me through the application process.”

Whiteside was impressed by Mangrum’s thoroughness in his application and preparation before even being accepted.

“In order to craft a competitive application for the Boren Scholarship, Jonathan not only completed several drafts of his statements, but he also performed considerable research on India and Urdu and their respective significances to U.S. National security concerns,” she said. “He also began a preliminary study of Urdu using textbooks that Dr. Matt Milligan helped him select.” 

Before submitting his application, Mangrum combed through the application with Dr. Steve Elliott-Gower, Dr. Matthew Milligan and Whiteside. 


Jonathan Mangrum

“They questioned me, and I had to respond effectively,” he said. “This process showed some areas where I needed to improve my application. It was a crucial last step in figuring out how I could make this application the best it could be.”

Mangrum feels that his leadership skills gave him an edge for this scholarship. Since he was a first-year student, Mangrum has served on the Student Government Association. He is a chief justice and a senator in the organization. He has also served on the mock trial team and in the Model United Nations Club—the club Mangrum was in when he decided to study international relations.

“It was quite an experience,” said Mangrum. “We competed in Washington, D.C., and that helped me decide that this is what I want to do.”

Ultimately, he aims for a career with the federal government working in Washington, D.C. After spending spring semester there in 2017 on a Newman Civic Fellowship, Mangrum caught “Potomac Fever”—what he describes as a desire to stay in Washington, D.C. 

“My plan is to join the Air Force as an intelligence officer,” he said. “I’m also generally interested in international relations. I could see myself working in an intelligence agency.”

Now, Mangrum’s sights are set to travel outside of the country—something the Augusta native has never done before.

“This is my first opportunity to go abroad to see a different world,” he said.  “My main focus is to expand my horizons. I’d like to learn about the people and in learning Urdu, I’ll be able to communicate with them better.”

Mangrum is appreciative of the support he receives at Georgia College in his studies and through the Boren Scholar application process.

“I learned the importance of mentorship in finding people who have the resources and knowledge to help you carry through your plans,” he said. “We have such willing mentors here who have traveled farther than you, who’ve studied more than you and who are more equipped who can share their experiences with you. And, beyond that, I have had incredible professors who’ve taught me how to expand my horizons, think differently and view many different things from the other side’s perspective.”

Now that Mangrum has discovered his niche, he looks back on how he got here.

“You won’t find your passions unless you’re involved at Georgia College to see what you really care about,” he said. “There are countless numbers of organizations to get involved in, and dedicated professors and administrators to help you find those passions.” 

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