Published May 21, 2021
A child of African immigrants whose years of homelessness strengthened her resolve to succeed is UB’s latest recipient of a Boren Scholarship, a prestigious international award that sponsors U.S. undergraduates to study abroad in areas of the world critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad programs.
Dalanda Jalloh will spend part of her senior year in Senegal studying the language and working as an intern with a local organization related to her chosen area of study.
Jalloh also has been selected to receive a scholarship award from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which funds study abroad for undergraduate students.
She brings a distinctive identity to her honors, first for her passion to fight food insecurity, which she calls a “catalyzing agent for political and economic instability.” Jalloh’s professors stress her ability to bridge the gap between her humanitarian interest in establishing equitable food systems in local communities and understanding how food insecurity can derail progressive governments and humanitarian reform.
“Food insecurity must be addressed as a U.S. national security concern,” says Jalloh. “Senegal plays an important role in promoting peace and security throughout the African continent. Addressing food security in Senegal is imperative to avoiding political and economic instability, and establishing lasting peace and prosperity in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Jalloh’s perspective on the role of food insecurity in international relations is just one reason for the deep and detailed admiration from her academic mentors. Jalloh’s academic preparation, research as an undergraduate at UB and work in the local refugee community are all the more instructive, they say, because of the adversity she endured before coming to UB.
“Dalanda’s accomplishment in receiving this award is another perfect example of how a UB education can empower an individual. Education can change lives,” says Elizabeth Colucci, director of UB’s Office of Fellowships and Scholarships, which identifies, sponsors and supports UB students applying for internationally competitive and recognized scholarships such as the Boren award.
“The fact she went through that personal and academic growth at UB, right here with us, is even more reason to celebrate.
“Dalanda was able to engage in meaningful research around the topic of global development and planning through her work with Dr. Frimpong Boamah and UB’s Community for Global Health Equity,” Colucci explains. “Dalanda sees how food security has international, as well as domestic security implications. This is why she was such a strong candidate for the Boren Scholarship African Flagship Languages Initiative.”
Jalloh, who graduated from Coney Island Prep High School, walks a delicate balance when explaining her background. It’s important, she will tell you, about how her years without a real home — a time in effect ending when she came to Buffalo for college — honed her determination, resilience and ability to “cherish memories and every experience deeply.”
“I don't want to make it seem like I have completely processed what I’ve been through,” she says. “Every day is definitely a battle — especially accepting that it happened to me. But it is a part of my journey and to embrace it means I need to see the good in what this experience brought. After all, it did lead me to Buffalo.”
But those around her join her insistence that she also be perceived as a scholar with a savvy eye, one who merges idealism with a realpolitik appreciation of how food equity can either stabilize or undermine governments.
“Driven by its democratic values, Senegal plays an important role in promoting peace and security throughout Africa,” she wrote in a Boren essay.
What Jalloh learned about food security in Buffalo can apply worldwide, something her professors called a powerful connection.
Jalloh was described as the “perfect” Boren scholarship winner. Recommendations of award winners are invariably positive. Her letters seem to capture another level of intensity.
Lisa M. Vahapoglu, program coordinator for an interdisciplinary global health project for the Community for Global Health Equity (CGHE) at UB, says her only reservation in writing Jalloh’s recommendation was fear her letter “won’t do her justice.” Vahapoglu describes Jalloh as “fiercely intelligent, warm, self-possessed and unassuming.”
“An important responsibility of my position as program coordinator was to identify gifted students and connect them with faculty research teams that could benefit from support to advance research or community engagement projects,” Vahapoglu says. “At the conclusion of my first one-on-one meeting with Dalanda, I picked up the phone and asked the most promising young faculty member associated with CGHE — Dr. Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah (an assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, School of Architecture and Planning) — to find a place for Dalanda on his research team.”
“Throughout that semester,” wrote Ndubueze L. Mbah, associate professor in the Department of History, “Ms. Jalloh’s ceaseless and inspiring inquisitions about the origins of, and potential solutions to, African development challenges, her precocious and insightful contributions to class discussions, and overall distinguished scholarship, which placed her at the top of the class, convinced me she was destined for great things.”
Five UB students have received Boren Awards in the past five years, including two in 2020.
Jalloh says being a daughter of first-generation African immigrants allowed her to view the world through different lenses.
“I am interested in federal service because I have a lot to offer in diversifying the field,” she says. “By serving the U.S. government, I will be representing a true image of what being American means and represents around the world. I am diplomacy; I am America.”