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UNG has first Goldwater Scholar and two students earn Boren scholarships

Haley Shea Barfield won the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes the United States' most promising young scientists and future researchers. With this victory, the senior became UNG's first Barry Goldwater Scholar. Senior Alexander Ross and junior Laine Hunt will spend months overseas learning Arabic and Russian, respectively, after they won David L. Boren Scholarships.

On the last day of classes of the spring 2019 semester at the University of North Georgia (UNG), Haley Shea Barfield cried tears of joy after reading an email.

She won the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes the United States' most promising young scientists and future researchers. With this victory, she became UNG's first Barry Goldwater Scholar.

 "This just shows that you can achieve beyond what you think you are capable," said the senior pursuing degrees in English and interdisciplinary studies with concentrations in math/technology, social science and humanities.

Barfield was one of 496 college students from across the United States – and only 24 in Georgia – to earn the scholarship for the 2019-20 academic year.  More than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors were nominated by 443 academic institutions. 

"UNG is thrilled with the announcement that Haley Shea Barfield will become the university’s first Goldwater Scholar," UNG President Bonita Jacobs said. "This recognition underscores the value we place on providing students excellent academic and leadership development opportunities. Our students have had great success winning nationally competitive scholarships, and I am grateful to the Nationally Competitive Scholarship Office and to multiple faculty and staff mentors who have been instrumental in our students receiving over $1.2 million in nationally competitive scholarships, including Fulbrights, since 2013."

Barfield's accomplishment marks the third preeminent undergraduate award that UNG students have won for the first time this year. John Blessing, a senior pursuing bachelor's degrees in political science and history with a focus in pre-law, was selected as the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation Scholar and the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Summer Enrichment Program Scholar. Both were first's for UNG.

Supported by Congress and established through a collaboration of the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation and the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs (NDEP), the scholarship of up to $7,500 a year helps cover costs associated with tuition, mandatory fees, books, and room and board for undergraduate students.

Barfield, who grew up in Florida and Massachusetts and lives in Gainesville, Georgia, said the additional funds will help pay for her final academic year at UNG. She said she has exhausted her funds from the HOPE scholarship and Pell grant. A scholarship from the International English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, helped finance this spring semester.

"I worked diligently on the Goldwater application and went through weeks of drafting it, because I knew it would make a huge difference in my financial ability to finish my last year at UNG," Barfield said.

Now, she can do so with ease. But she will not stop at a bachelor's degree. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in cognitive neuroscience/computational psycholinguistics to conduct research on brain-computer interfaces and neurocognition of language processing. Virtually all Goldwater Scholars intend to obtain a doctoral degree.

"The win has really helped me feel more confident and ready to apply for graduate programs in cognitive neuroscience and computational linguistics this summer," she said.

Many Goldwater Scholars also have published research in leading journals and have presented work at professional society conferences. Barfield fits in that category, too. She has presented at several regional, national and international conferences, including the Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference in November 2018 at UNG.

In summer 2018, she was a member of UNG's Faculty Undergraduate Summer Engagement program (FUSE), where she conducted research under her mentor Dr. Troy Smith to investigate the neurocognition of syntax using electroencephalography (EEG).

Boren scholarship recipients

Alexander Ross, a senior cadet at UNG, wants to serve his country as an interpreter. UNG junior Laine Hunt dreams of being a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department. Both will have an opportunity to pursue these goals after they spend months overseas learning Arabic and Russian thanks to David L. Boren Scholarships, which they both won in April 2019.

The Boren Scholarship pays up to $20,000 for students to spend up to a full academic year to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests. The students also head to regions underrepresented in study abroad, such as Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In exchange, the recipients to commit to work in the federal government for at least one year after graduation. Both students said that year of service will give them an advantage over other job applicants.

Ross, who is pursuing a degree in modern languages with a concentration in Russian, will study Russian in Kazakhstan.

"I want to be an interpreter for the government, for a private business or freelance," the 22-year-old from Barnstable, Massachusetts, said. "You can bring people together from two different languages and convey messages to solve a problem."

Hunt, who is pursuing a degree in international affairs, will study Arabic in Oman.

"To have the opportunity to spend an extended period of time in a foreign country will increase my experience," the 21-year-old from Macon, Georgia, said. "I've always wanted to work for the government in some capacity, and the Boren Scholarship is a good way to get my foot in the door."

Students interested in learning more about nationally competitive scholarships should contact for more information.

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