MISSOULA – University of Montana student Andrew Castellanos has been awarded a Boren Scholarship to study Russian in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at Al-Farabi Kazakh University for the 2018-19 academic year.
Castellanos earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in wilderness studies from UM in 2017. He is now on track to receive his bachelor’s in Russian in spring 2019. He will depart in August for his year as a Boren Scholar.
The Boren Scholarship awards up to $20,000 to highly motivated students who wish to work in the federal national security arena. Boren Scholars commit to working in federal government for at least one year after graduation. The scholarship is funded by the National Security Education Program.
Only four UM students have received this prestigious academic scholarship; three of which also were students in UM’s Russian program, including Castellanos.
Castellanos became interested in political science and studied Arabic language at Old Dominion University while on active duty in the U.S. Navy (2010-14). After his honorable discharge, Castellanos enrolled at UM in fall 2015 due to UM’s strong Russian program and wilderness studies program. He previously studied in Irkutsk, Russia, during summer 2017.
Prior to his departure to Kazakhstan, Castellanos will travel to Washington, D.C., as an ambassador for the Boren scholarship where he will meet with Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines, and Rep. Greg Gianforte.
While in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Castellanos will study the Russian language, regional politics and economics, and the history of Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. Its location between the Siberian region of Russia to the north and the Xinjiang region of China to the south makes Kazakhstan an exciting place to study.
“I get to study a landlocked country like Kazakhstan and see what they want,” Castellanos said. “They are more western-oriented than Russia or China.”
In addition to studying the Russian language, Castellanos said he will study economics and climate ecology in Kazakhstan. He said climate change is well underway to the north in Siberia and he is curious how Kazakhs envision their future with climate change in their country. With the melting of the permafrost and polar arctic, new areas are being revealed, and this is of strategic importance to the United States.
“After graduation, I hope to work in some form of public service and apply to graduate schools in order to further my knowledge of Russian and Central Asia,” Castellanos said. “In the long run if I work in a diplomatic setting, I already have built a rapport with the people of Siberia.”
Castellanos said many people at UM helped him to achieve the Boren Scholarship. He gives special thanks to Marja Unkuri-Chaudhry, interim director of UM’s Global Engagement Office. Both Sara Rinfret and Eric Schluessel of the UM’s political science department were instrumental in aiding him, as well as Brock Tessman, dean of Davidson Honors College. Lastly, Castellanos thanks Laure Pengelly Drake, director of UM's external scholarship program, and Professors Ona Renner, Alice Harris and Clint Walker in the UM Russian language department.