Graduate student will study Arabic in Jordan through Boren Fellowship

Marymount University graduate student Lexie Stuivenvolt Allen has been awarded a prestigious Boren Fellowship to travel to Jordan, where she will begin studying Modern Standard Arabic in January 2020.

Allen, who is currently enrolled in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, will be living in the capital city of Amman for close to seven months in order to gain a true, immersive experience. There, she will be taking intensive language classes and seeking out volunteer opportunities that align with her focus of study at Marymount.

“It’s been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember to learn a second language,” Allen said. “The opportunity afforded to me by Boren will literally expand my worldview, and I have the chance to walk away with a hard skill and experience that will enable me to serve as a more competent counselor to a wider range of clientele. I suspect I’ll look back at this period of my studies as a life-changing moment!”


The Boren Fellowship is a National Security Education Program initiative awarded to graduate students motivated to learn a language deemed critical to national security. When Allen applied in January 2019, she emphasized her ultimate aim of incorporating her mental health counseling education in working for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services. The ORR has mental health initiatives focused on refugees, including the Services to Survivors of Torture program, which is committed to restoring health and independence so that survivors may build productive lives.

Allen was particularly drawn to Jordan because Arabic is the top language spoken by refugees who are resettled in the United States, according to a U.S. Department of State report in 2018. By blending her counseling education with knowledge of Arabic, she hopes to better aid the underserved refugee population in America – whose mental health, she argues, is directly tied to national security concerns.

“People who are refugees have experienced significant trauma. Being forcibly removed from your home because of war, violence or poverty – that in itself is psychologically distressing,” Allen explained. “And these people are being resettled in a country that…let’s face it…is not totally welcoming all of the time. The trauma and the crisis that they’re dealing with, on top of integrating into a new, sometimes hostile, home…that kind of begets indefinite victimhood for these refugees.”

“As a mental health professional, I’d like to help bridge that gap a little bit. I think language learning and being able to offer those services in their native language is a crucial part of helping them feel welcome in resettling. It’s a little piece, but it’s important.”

One of Marymount University’s three core values is having a global perspective – which stresses the importance of students becoming informed, curious and adaptable global citizens by taking advantage of educational opportunities around the world. Allen credits this to properly preparing her in advance of her international journey ahead.

“Marymount is exemplary in the promotion of diversity and multiculturalism,” Allen said. “As an aspiring therapist, I am ethically bound and personally motivated to seek out cultural competence for the rest of my career. Every single class I’ve taken at Marymount has integrated the importance of multiculturalism in some regard.”

Once she returns from Jordan at the conclusion of her Boren Fellowship, Allen plans to complete her studies for the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program in August 2020.

If you are interested in applying for a Boren Fellowship, or a Boren Scholarship if you are an undergraduate student, please contact Marymount University’s Center for Global Education.