OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University anthropology major Joshua Blackwelder has been awarded $17,600 in scholarship money from the National Security Education Program to fund a year of study in Russia and Siberia.
The scholarship will pay for Blackwelder's air travel, tuition and housing at three universities during his year abroad. In the proposal Blackwelder submitted, he outlined plans to spend four months in St. Petersburg, Russia, improving the Russian language skills he first learned while participating in a humanitarian service project in the Ural Mountains. After St. Petersburg, he'll spend four months studying Russian politics and government in Vladivostok, a seaport in southeast Siberia. The final four months of Blackwelder's journey will be spent in Khabarovsk in eastern Siberia, where he'll study the ethnography and anthropology of the Sakha Republic of Siberia.
Blackwelder first learned of Sakha, formerly the Yakut Republic, while researching a paper in an anthropology class at WSU. Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced plans to develop Sakha, and Blackwelder wonders what impact new development will have on that region's minority populations, the Evenki and Sakha, who have worked as reindeer herders for centuries.
"To a large degree, the Sakha Republic consists of traditional cultures based on herding reindeer." said Blackwelder. "Upcoming mining, oil, and natural gas developments will surely affect the ecological balance of the region. For example, how will these changes affect the growth of lichen the reindeer feed off of? How will pipeline networks affect the reindeer migratory patterns? What ramifications will such changes have on the social culture?" These are some of the questions he hopes to research during his visit.
Blackwelder is one of only 147 recipients of the 2005-2006 David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarship, selected from a pool of 730 applicants this year. A panel of university faculty from across the nation reviews applications, giving preference to strategic geographic regions, applicants with expertise in a foreign language and those interested in careers in federal service.
After traveling to Washington, D.C., to formally accept the scholarship in June, Blackwelder plans to spend much of the summer preparing for his trip before leaving in September.
While the year overseas will delay his studies at WSU, the 26-year-old Ogden resident sees the experience as a tremendous opportunity and one he hopes will help him achieve his long-term goal of working for the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
The National Security Education Program (NSEP) was created by Congress in 1991 in an effort to help increase the ability of U.S. citizens to communicate and compete globally by knowing the languages and cultures of other countries. NSEP focuses on geographic areas, languages and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security. It draws on a broad definition of national security, recognizing that the scope has expanded to include not only the traditional concerns of protecting and promoting American well-being, but also the challenges of a global society, including sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and economic competitiveness.