Steiner arrived in Beijing on Aug. 23, 2009, and he will stay until June 15, 2010 studying Chinese ethnic and minority studies, Mandarin and Uyghur languages and the social dynamics of the Uyghur, a Turkic Muslim minority from Northwest China, within the Han-dominant Chinese society.
"The Uyghur Problem is a very politically charged subject in China, so I am extremely fortunate to have such strong support for my work," he explained.
Steiner learned about the scholarship while researching study abroad opportunities through Wittenberg's Office of International Education. Funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), the Boren Scholarship provides a unique funding opportunity for United States undergraduates to pursue underrepresented fields of study critical to U.S. interests while adding an important international component to their education.
Fueled by a fascination with conflict studies and cultural nuances, Steiner decided to apply for the scholarship. He credits the "iron patience" of Director of International Education JoAnn Bennett and her then-administrative assistant Betsy Schmidt, as well as the support of the Boren faculty review committee. Others, including Professor of Sociology Jerry Pankhurst, Professor of Political Science Bin Yu and Assistant Professor of Languages Howard Choy, helped him complete the rigorous application. Pankhurst's course titled Islamic Society in Northwest China, in particular, provided the academic foundation for his Boren proposal.
"It was Dr. Pankhurst who really challenged me to build a framework for my research, set tangible goals and start presenting at conferences," he said.
All Boren Scholars promise to seek a minimum of one year's employment in a national security role after graduation. Steiner sees himself one day working at the U.S. Agency for International Development or another organization that promotes national security through greater international development.
Steiner's future is full of possibilities, and he does not rule out eventually applying for a Fulbright research grant or going to graduate school. For now, though, he feels well-prepared for his year in China and excited about the opportunity, which he says would not have been possible without the Boren Scholarship.
Steiner's exploration will extend beyond the academic as well. Raised in America but born in Singapore, Steiner calls Xiamen, a city in the Taiwan Straits, his "zuji" (祖籍 in Chinese), or ancestral home. His grandfather, Siow Ah-Tong, grew up there and lived through the Japanese occupations and the Cultural Revolution.
"China is in my blood," he said. "I am here to learn about China, but a lot of it is self-discovery, literally."
Written by: Gabrielle Antoniadis and Ken Njihia '09
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