Virginia Tech graduate student Emily Barry of Blacksburg has been selected to receive one of the most prestigious awards granted in the United States for international study.

The National Security Education Program (NSEP) has awarded a Boren Fellowship worth as much as $30,000 to Barry, who is pursuing a master’s degree at Virginia Tech in government and international affairs from the School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Barry also works as an international programs graduate assistant for the Virginia Tech Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships.

Boren fellowships support graduate studies and research in areas of the world critical to the security interests of the United States, and also enable students to develop proficiency in less commonly taught languages.

Barry, who grew up in Burke, Va., will travel to Sri Lanka in November to work as an assistant to A.T. Ariyaratne, the founder and president of Sarvodaya, the country’s largest disaster-relief and community development organization. Barry’s work with Sarvodaya will focus on the organization’s human services activities for people who were displaced during the 30 years of civil war between the Sri Lankan military and Tamil separatists. During her eight-month stay in Sri Lanka, she will study the Sri-Lankan languages.

Barry, who received her bachelor’s degree in Spanish language and literature from Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences in 2009, has earned a number of other honors while a student at the university. Currently, as a Global Dialogue Scholar, she represents Virginia Tech in a dialogue for social responsibility with a group of international nonprofit leaders. She has received the Jimmy and Roslyn Carter Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Grant Award, the Virginia Tech University Honors Program Scholarship, Virginia Tech Center for Academic Enrichment and Excellence Diversity Grant Award, Gulf-South Summit Award for Outstanding Student Contributions to Service Learning, and four merit scholarships and grants from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Her work in Sri Lanka will not be the first of Barry’s projects in another country. With funds provided by a student entrepreneurship grant awarded by the Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships, she founded a partnership between the Virginia Tech University Honors Program and the community of El Porvenir, Honduras. Barry has led honors students and El Porvenir residents in planning and coordinating human service programs in water sanitation, women’s health education, youth empowerment, and nutrition and community gardening.

After completing her master’s degree at Virginia Tech, Barry plans to pursue a career in government service with the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Department of State. “My interest is in international human service and development programming,” she said. “I hope that through an international service career, I will be able to plan and implement programs that are successful in promoting holistic human development and resettling and reintegrating populations affected by war.”

“Beyond her well-framed aims and detailed planning, Emily has the capability to realize her goals,” wrote Max Stephenson, director of the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance, in nominating Barry for the Boren Fellowship. “She is an honors student, is clearly driven to accomplish her aims and fortunate to possess an amazing measure of energy and the communication skills necessary to persuade others of her aspirations. Her energy and good will are infectious and her desire to learn and to serve palpable.”


Share this story