By Willow Howard—
MUNCIE, Ind.—Former Muncie Central High School student and 2021 Delaware County Fair Queen 1st Runner-Up Taegan Carpenter was recently awarded the highly competitive Boren Scholarship. The Boren Scholarship is an initiative of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office of the US Department of Defense. This year, it was awarded to 208 college students across the nation and provides each of them with up to $25,000 for study abroad in areas critical to national security. Carpenter will be studying for one year in Taiwan to improve her Mandarin language skills.
Carpenter is a 19-year-old college student at Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, Illinois. She is a recipient of SIU’s full-ride scholarship, the Chancellor’s Scholarship. She is majoring in anthropology and Chinese and minoring in Spanish.
Carpenter developed an early interest in world cultures through her family’s hosting of foreign exchange students and participation in the Ball State University Friendship Family program, through which they befriended several BSU students from China and their families throughout the years. One Chinese family invited Carpenter to visit them after they returned to China. As a sophomore at Muncie Central, Taegan made arrangements with Mr. Walker, principal of Muncie Central, and her teachers at the time to continue her schooling remotely for more than two weeks in order to pursue this opportunity. In a news release by Pete Rosenbery of SIU, Carpenter recounts the impact that this trip to China had on her.
“I was like, ‘Yes, this is for me!’” Carpenter said. “I love learning about the culture and the language. I learned so much when I was there. I decided then and there that I was going to pursue Chinese and try and be some sort of international translator.”
Carpenter also credits her experiences on the Muncie Central Swim Team with helping her to realize that she enjoys pushing herself to the limits with the support of teammates all working together to achieve results in high-stakes situations. Her desire to be a part of a team led her to involvement with the ROTC during her first year at SIU. Although she has decided she will not pursue a career in the US Army, her ROTC experiences influenced her decision to apply for a major national scholarship aimed at preserving national security.
The Boren Scholarship also includes a federal service requirement, which means that Carpenter will work in a federal position for at least one year following her graduation from SIU. Her hope is that this will propel her career in translation or some other area related to national security. In her interview with Pete Rosenbery, she explained the connection between her love of teamwork and her pursuit of a career in federal service.
“I found I am interested in the federal government and international politics. I found I do enjoy that community. When you are working in federal policy, you are working as a team.”
After spending the summer at home in Muncie, Taegan will leave for Taiwan in September. The Taiwanese academic year will continue through mid-June 2023. During this time, Carpenter will take a full load of courses in Mandarin and complete an independent anthropology project. Credits for her coursework and independent study will be transferred to her home university of SIU. According to the SIU news release, Carpenter hopes to become involved in the local community in Taiwan and will live with a host family.
“Hopefully, by the time I am done[,] I will be pretty close to fluent in Mandarin; that is my goal,” she said. “I’m going to put myself in situations where I will be completely immersed in the language.”
Taegan is the daughter of Andrea and Michael Wolfe and Yancey and Missy Carpenter.