University of Pittsburgh
May 8, 2014

Pitt Student and Alumnus Receive 2014 Boren Awards

Graduate student Courtney Queen will study Swahili, research mental health outcomes of female genital cutting in Kenya
Recent graduate Zachary Patton will study Portuguese and environment and energy policies in Brazil
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—A University of Pittsburgh graduate student and a recent alumnus have been honored with 2014 David L. Boren Awards for International Study from the National Security Education Program. 

Courtney Queen, a graduate student in Pitt’s School of Social Work, has received a David L. Boren Fellowship to further develop her Swahili language skills in Kenya. As part of the fellowship, she will study the mental health effects of female genital cutting amongst women in native tribes within the country. Zachary Patton, a recent graduate from Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has received a David L. Boren Scholarship to further develop his Portuguese language skills in Brazil. As part of the scholarship, he will participate in two programs that will investigate social, environmental policy, and energy security issues in Brazil. 

This is the 12th consecutive year that University of Pittsburgh students have received Boren Awards. The awards provide U.S. graduate and undergraduate students with the resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experiences in countries critical to the future security and stability of the nation. In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year following graduation. 

David L. Boren Fellowships provide up to $30,000 to U.S. graduate students to add important international and language components to their graduate education. David L. Boren Scholarships provide up to $20,000 to U.S. undergraduate students and recent graduates to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests. 

In addition to developing her Swahili language skills, Queen will study the mental health of women who haveCourtney Queen undergone female genital cutting within Kenya’s Kisii, Maasai, and Somali tribes, for a period of nine months. 

Queen notes that the World Health Organization has defined female genital cutting as: “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Despite legislation in Kenya banning female genital cutting, and a reduced prevalence of the procedure, the Kisii, Maasai, and Somali tribes have maintained their support and practice of the cultural ritual that has been performed on more than 125 million girls and women worldwide.

Utilizing her existing contacts at Kenyatta University and the University of Nairobi as well as various Kenyan women’s health and religious organizations, Queen will interview and closely monitor the psychological wellbeing of women who have undergone the procedure. 

Queen says her endeavor serves an understudied aspect in the area of female genital cutting research because most studies have focused solely on its long-term physical outcomes. Through emersion in Kenyan society, Queen will increase her proficiency in Swahili, the national language of Kenya and one of the most widely spoken languages in East and Central African countries. 

Queen’s Boren Fellowship will be an extension of her doctoral studies at Pitt—an ongoing assessment of understanding the physical health and mental health status of African women in the United States affected by the practice of female genital cutting. 

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, and a resident of Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, Queen is a licensed social worker who is pursuing a PhD degree in social work at Pitt. She earned a Master of Social Work degree at the University of Toledo as well as a Bachelors of Arts degree in psychology at Ohio State University. Zachary Patton

In addition to developing his Portuguese language skills, Patton will take part in two research programs in the Brazilian cities of Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro.

From September through December 2014, Patton will participate in the School for International Training’s “Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development,” program in Fortaleza, Brazil. The program gives participants an opportunity to interact with Brazilian ethnic groups to gain insight into the challenges and benefits of implementing social change within a multicultural environment. Patton also will conduct individual research on the social impact of environmental degradation and how energy security affects transportation policy. 

From January to June 2015, Patton will take part in the Council on International Educational Exchange’s “Environment and Sustainability Studies” program in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The program is comprised of both intensive coursework and field studies analyzing the region’s economic, environmental, and social issues. 

This summer, Patton will conduct a research project in Switzerland through a Summer Undergraduate Research Award from the Dietrich School’s Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity. He will study the effectiveness of ongoing collaborations between government, nonprofit, and private agencies on various issues regarding energy, environment, and transportation in Switzerland. Patton also will serve as an intern in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Congressman Bill Shuster, representative of Pennsylvania’s 9th congressional district and chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. 

A first generation college student from Kittanning, Pa., Patton earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Pitt’s April 27 Commencement Convocation. While a student at Pitt, he majored in communication and rhetoric as well as philosophy and minored in Portuguese. 

He received Pitt’s 2014 Omicron Delta Kappa Senior of the Year Award—one of Pitt’s most prestigious undergraduate honors. Patton’s awards and distinctions also include the Donald E. Walker Scholarship and the Francis Hesselbein Global Leadership Academy Fellowship. Patton also is a two-time winner of the University of Pittsburgh’s Undergraduate Oratory Competition.

The Boren Awards are named for David L. Boren, principal author of the legislation that created the National Security Education Program in 1991. Boren served as the governor of Oklahoma from 1974 to 1978, and as a U.S. senator from Oklahoma from 1979 to 1994; since 1994, he has served as president of the University of Oklahoma. He is the first person in Oklahoma state history to have served in all three of these roles.