MSU’s first Boren Scholar ‘excited’ to study abroad in China

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

Donielle Allen (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A microbiology major in Mississippi State’s Department of Biological Sciences is embarking on a study abroad experience in China this fall with help from a $10,000 David L. Boren Scholarship.

As MSU’s first Boren Scholar, senior Donielle D. Allen of McCalla, Alabama, is participating in the School for International Training’s “Health, Environment and Traditional Chinese Medicine” program. Support for Allen’s study abroad experience also is made possible by the Ottilie Schillig Leadership Scholarship she is receiving as an MSU Presidential Scholar in the Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College.

This year, 794 undergraduate students applied for the Boren Scholarship. Of this group, Allen and 220 others were awarded the scholarship by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of International Education on behalf of the National Security Education Program.

“We are exceedingly proud of Ms. Allen’s achievement and hope she is just the first of many Boren Scholars here at MSU,” said David M. Hoffman, an associate professor and graduate coordinator in MSU’s Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures. Hoffman also serves as the Boren campus representative, critical language scholarship adviser and Fulbright program adviser in the Shackouls Honors College’s Office of Prestigious External Scholarships.

Boren Scholarships provide funding opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. In exchange for funding, Boren Scholars commit to work in federal government for at least one year after graduation. For more, visit

“To continue to play a leadership role in the world, it is vital that America’s future leaders have a deep understanding of the rest of the world,” said University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who as a U.S. Senator was principal author of the legislation that created the National Security Education Program and the scholarship that bears his name. “As we seek to lead through partnerships, understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential.”

During her time abroad, Allen looks forward to expanding her knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine, an interest she developed while overcoming a challenging health experience. While growing up in Crystal Springs, Allen experienced inflammation and swelling in her joints. Doctors prescribed her different medicines, but none worked. Through independent online research, Allen learned about the healing properties of turmeric, an herb that has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

“I decided to give turmeric a try, and it worked. The pain was gone, and I was able to sleep better,” she recalled. “My interest in traditional Chinese medicine as a child made me want to become a doctor, but I’m excited to see how this trip to China could shine a light on other career opportunities.”

Allen said she is grateful to the Shackouls Honors College for connecting her to life-changing opportunities like the Boren Scholarship program. She expressed particular appreciation for the guidance of MSU Professor of English Tommy Anderson and Associate Professor of English Donald Shaffer. Anderson directs the honors college’s Office of Prestigious External Scholarships, and Shaffer serves as mentor to the university’s Presidential Scholars.

“Making connections and relationships is a big part of being a Presidential Scholar,” Allen said. “The honors college is a place for me to call home because I can fully express myself, discuss things that are most interesting to me and receive support for what I want to do. Dr. Anderson has been on the forefront of finding opportunities like the Boren Scholarship, and Dr. Shaffer has been great too.”

Along with learning about China’s rich multicultural history and getting an up-close look at landscapes throughout Yunnan Province, Allen is eager to expand on her foundation in Chinese language by receiving small-group instruction from teachers certified by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

This spring, Allen successfully completed an introductory Chinese language course taught by lecturer Shu Yu Huang in MSU’s Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures. She is continuing to hone her skills this summer through weekly interactions with a Chinese language partner.

“I want to be able to use language in small interactions in a diverse workplace, so it would be cool if I could become fluent,” Allen said. “Each city in China has a different dialect. I am hoping the family I am staying with can teach me Chinese, and I can share something Mississippi State with them too,” she added.

Discover more about MSU’s Department of Biological Sciences at and Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures at; both are part of MSU's College of Arts and Sciences. The Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College is online at

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Thursday, May 17, 2018 - 3:21 pm