CCU student Christian Simmons awarded Boren Scholarship to study business Spanish in Panama

June 29, 2023
Coastal Carolina University senior Christian Simmons, from Lexington, S.C., was recently awarded a David L. Boren Scholarship.

Coastal Carolina University senior Christian Simmons, from Lexington, S.C., was recently awarded a David L. Boren Scholarship. He will receive up to $25,000 to study business Spanish at Casco Antiguo Spanish School in Panama City, Panama, for a year. Simmons is a senior in the HTC Honors College, Wall College of Business, and Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts. He is majoring in accounting and languages and intercultural studies with a Hispanic studies concentration.

The Boren Awards, an initiative of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office, support U.S. undergraduate and graduate students in the acquisition of language skills and experience in countries critical to the security and stability of the United States. In exchange for funding, Boren Scholars and Fellows agree to work in the federal government for at least one year.

Simmons competed with 538 applicants for the Boren Scholarship for undergraduates. He was one of eight selected from South Carolina and the only student in the nation awarded the scholarship to study Spanish.

“Initially, I was surprised to have been selected as a Boren Scholar because I knew Spanish was not a preferred language,” Simmons said. “However, this motivated me to prepare a powerful case for my application. I am excited to explore the beautiful culture and landscapes of Panama. I believe my education in CCU’s Wall College of Business has provided me with the tools necessary to effectively analyze the financial environment of Panama.”

Melanie James, DBA, professor and chair of the D. Wyatt Henderson Department of Accounting, said, "Christian possesses one of the most important qualities for success in life: he is intellectually curious and eager to know more. The Boren Scholarship to study in Panama will afford Christian real-world experience in understanding some of the challenges of global business management."

Simmons is president of CCU’s Beta Alpha Psi, an international honor and service organization for finance and business information students. He is also a member of Rotaract Club, Spanish conversation club, and Sigma Delta Pi, a national collegiate honor society that promotes the study of Spanish language and Hispanic culture. In addition to working several jobs on and off campus, Simmons has interned at accounting and consulting firms in Myrtle Beach and Columbia, S.C.

In Spring 2022, as an HTC Honors Global Engagement awardee, Simmons secured an accounting internship in Barcelona, Spain. As a first-generation college student who had never been abroad, Simmons described this experience as one of profound personal growth. Then, in Summer 2022, he visited Argentina and Uruguay.

In the rare cases the Boren program grants awards to focus on Spanish, the student must have advanced Spanish language skills. A month before the results were announced, the Boren program reached out to Simmons. He had to take an oral examination to test his proficiency, and he scored well.

“Christian is one of the few students who would only speak to me or email in Spanish. It is not frequent that students force themselves to such exposure with native speakers,” said Edurne Beltrán de Heredia Carmona, Ph.D., assistant professor of Spanish. “He is always asking questions about Spanish-speaking countries and looking for opportunities to speak the language and to learn from cultures and communities in Spain and Latin America. He will brilliantly represent CCU and the United States in Panama.”

In the future, Simmons envisions working with government officials, business leaders, and international organizations. After graduating from CCU, Simmons will seek a position with the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Simmons is CCU’s second Boren Scholar. Madison Earl was awarded a Boren Scholarship to study in Brazil in 2022.

Students interested in applying for a Boren award should contact a Boren campus representative: Judith Zang, director of national scholarships; or Jonathan Smith, Ph.D., professor and chair of the intelligence and national security studies department.