Smith School Senior Receives Two Major International Awards
Smith School senior Rebecca Hammer has been presented with two opportunities
of a lifetime. Hammer, a finance and economics double major and Chinese language
minor, was awarded two major international awards: a Fulbright Award to teach English
in Taiwan and a Boren Scholarship to study Chinese intensively, either in the People’s
Republic or Taiwan.
She is accepting the Boren Scholarship, which, according to the National Scholarship
Office at the University of Maryland, is a highly competitive Department of Defense
award with a 15 percent acceptance rate. The scholarship provides up to $20,000
to U.S. undergraduate students to pursue intensive language studies in areas of
the world that are critical to U.S. interests.
Hammer is one of six students at the university to be offered a Boren Scholarship
for the 2011 - 2012 academic year and is the fourth Smith School student or alumna
to be offered a Fulbright Award for 2011 - 2012.
“It was easy for me to choose which award to accept because I knew as an end
goal I wanted to achieve fluency so I can use the language in my everyday job,”
Hammer explained. “With the Fulbright, I was honored to receive the award, but I
knew it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do because it is only out of Taiwan.”
She started studying Chinese her freshman year at the university as a way to
stray from only taking classes within her majors: “I was taking a lot of economics
and business classes, along with math classes because I thought I was going to minor
in math. But, I knew I really wanted to travel and to see the world, so I decided
to start taking Chinese.”
“I figured I could eventually look for jobs in Europe because China does business
with everybody and everybody does business with China,” she explained. “Also, my
dad’s best friend is Chinese and pushed me to think about studying the language.”
Hammer, who just completed an internship at the Bureau of Economic Analysis in
Washington, D.C., has already spent two summers in China, first studying language
in Beijing, then volunteering as a teaching assistant in the rural village of Changjiang
in southwest China.
Right now, her Chinese language skills are “at the level where it is fun, but
not useful for everything.” She knew that an intensive program would really help
her achieve fluency.
“I knew that was what I wanted to do – I knew it would be rough,” she said. “Intensive
programs are true to their name. They are four hours of class each day followed
by four to five hours of studying each night to prepare for class the next day.
It’s a lot of studying, studying, studying – with a little time in between semesters
The Boren Scholarship also has a service component to it, requiring all recipients
to work for the U.S. government for at least one year when they get back: “They
really push people toward the CIA, DOD or the State Department. I might want to
do diplomatic relations, but I’m really more of an economics person and hopefully
would be able to use the economics degree.”
Applying for the Boren Scholarship was a very involved process, Hammer recalled.
She had to get multiple recommendations, write two essays – one about why she thought
she would be a good fit for the scholarship and another about what she wanted to
do within the government with her language knowledge – and select which two programs
she would be interested and explain why they would be the best for her.
“Without a doubt, Francis DuVinage is the best resource I’ve even been offered
while at the University of Maryland,” Hammer said of the director at the National
Scholarships Office and Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research. “He is an amazing
person and starts you working on every single draft early. He was just amazing.
My essays look nothing like what I turned in at the beginning – we went through
revision after revision. He knows exactly what they are looking for and was a huge
Upon completing her Boren Scholarship she hopes to enroll in an MA program in
international affairs to prepare for work that will combine her interests in financial
and economic affairs and China.