Kennesaw State student to study in Jordan on Boren Fellowship

Gabrielle Pajak
Gabrielle Pajak

KENNESAW, Ga. (May 5, 2021) — Kennesaw State University graduate student Gabrielle Pajak has been awarded a Boren Fellowship to study in Jordan, providing another step toward a career she plans related to human rights issues.

Pajak, who is pursuing a Master of Science in International Policy Management (MSIPM) from Kennesaw State, will learn Arabic at a language institute during 11 months in Jordan, starting in January 2022. Boren Awards focus on geographic areas, languages and fields of study that are critical to United States interests and underrepresented in study abroad, and Pajak chose to conduct hers in Jordan because of her interest in the country’s high number of refugees who have fled from Syria’s ongoing civil war.

“This is the perfect opportunity for me,” Pajak said. “I love how much learning you experience every day when you’re in another country, and it will be unique to live abroad and focus entirely on learning a language. Plus, it’s in a region that I am fascinated in and want to spend a career working in.”

Pajak is no stranger to being abroad, having studied in France, taught science at a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) camp for students in China and most recently spent 20 months in the African country of Namibia as a math teacher after joining the Peace Corps. After the pandemic resulted in a global evacuation of all Peace Corps volunteers last spring, Pajak learned about Kennesaw State as she was deciding on her next endeavor.

Pajak looked online and found KSU’s Returned Peace Corps Fellows Program, a partnership with the Paul D. Coverdell Program to offer research assistantships and tuition waivers to graduate students who were in the Peace Corps. Pajak felt it was a perfect fit along with the master’s in international policy management, in which she is enrolled online from her home in Colorado.

“I would highly recommend the online MSIPM program to other people in similar situations,” Pajak said. “I feel very fortunate and blessed to be studying what I love, and I’m getting a great education and learning so much. This is exactly what I wanted in a program.”

In addition to her coursework, Pajak is assisting on research with professors Maia Hallward from the School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development and Charity Butcher from the School of Government and International Affairs. They will present their research project, on refugee and migrant rights and how non-governmental organizations work on those issues, at the International Studies Association Human Rights Conference in June.

“I have worked with undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. level graduate research assistants, and rarely have I had students as detail-oriented, self-directed and reliable as Gabby Pajak,” said Hallward, a professor of Middle East politics. “Not only does Gabby consistently deliver timely and quality work, but she takes initiative and goes the extra mile without being asked.”

Pajak expressed gratitude for the “total support from KSU” she received in earning the Boren Fellowship, from faculty and staff assisting her through the process, reviewing her application and writing letters of recommendation. In particular, she credited Michelle Miles, Kennesaw State’s director of national and international scholarships and fellowships; Nicole Meanor, senior education abroad program coordinator in the Division of Global Affairs; and Tom Doleys, the director of the Master of International Policy Management program.

While she is learning Arabic during her 11 months in Jordan, Pajak also hopes to be involved in some type of volunteer work such as helping at a refugee camp. Much of her inspiration to assist refugees and immigrants comes from the example set by her parents, who emigrated to America from Poland when they were teenagers in the 1980s.

“Having grown up with my dual American culture and Polish culture, I always have liked different languages and different cultures,” Pajak said. “I also have been interested in what makes people leave their homes and what they’re seeking when they leave. Seeing my parents’ selflessness in emigrating to try to make better lives for their children added to my curiosity.”

– Paul Floeckher


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu

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