Boroka Bo, a 31-year-old senior sociology major, is graduating May 11 from the University of Colorado Boulder, 17 years after emigrating from the Transylvania region of Romania to the United States as a political refugee.
This spring, Bo received a prestigious Soros Fellowship, a program that awards 30 fellowships annually to naturalized citizens, green card holders or children of naturalized citizens. It provides up to $90,000 in support to students who plan to use their graduate education to contribute back to their communities.
“I feel like my goals for life are completely in line with what the Soros Fellowship strives to accomplish, and I feel extremely humbled to be one of their fellows,” she said. “Every year they pick an incredibly impressive and accomplished group of students, and I am very excited to be a part of this year’s cohort of fellows.”
After graduation, Bo will begin graduate school this fall at the University of California, San Francisco, focusing on medical sociology, and said she looks forward to learning all she can to become a meaningful contributor to the field.
“As soon as I started at CU, I started looking around for ways to not only engage with but also contribute to the CU community,” she said. “I always feel like it is somehow my job to give back to the school and country that provides me with so much.”
While at CU, Bo served on several committees and boards including the CU Health and Wellness Committee, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs and the Wardenburg Student Governing Board.
As Hungarians, Bo and her family were discriminated against in Romania and filed for and were given political refugee status in the United States. When she came to the U.S. at the age of 14, she knew little English and to learn she immersed herself in books by spending long hours at the library, acquiring her English comprehension through self-taught methods until she began an English as a Second Language program in high school. She also had to support herself through her high school years by working full time.
“I think this allowed me to not only experience and learn from many different jobs, from factories to security work to management, but I also learned how to budget my time effectively so that I can succeed in both school and work,” Bo said.
When she entered college, she decided sociology would be a fitting challenge as it forced her to think outside of the box of what she called ‘convention imposed by history.’ The importance of contributing to the lives of others in a tangible manner was one of her biggest motivators for going into medical sociology, which is a field where researchers look at the influence of ethnicity, gender, age or socioeconomic status on the access to and quality of health care.
“Sociology does this especially well as you have to remain objective when thinking about your own society, human behavior, exploring questions that are truly important,” she said. “I like medical sociology as I think it allows me to contribute to the lives of the people I work with in a positive manner, instead of being locked into an academic and purely theoretical realm only.”
Bo also was involved in the founding of the Transylvania Community Foundation in 2008. The foundation’s initial goal was to support the minority groups of Transylvania through a range of initiatives centered on employment, education, health and intercultural dialogue. The foundation has now partnered with Opportunity Nation and expanded its mission statement to include promoting social mobility and economic opportunity in the U.S. by providing language and technological training to low-income American students via opportunities to travel and volunteer in Europe.
“Our ultimate goal in Transylvania is to safeguard the fundamental human rights of communities traditionally marginalized and discriminated against,” Bo said. “We seek to foster a vibrant climate embracing diversity and cultural differences while simultaneously increasing access to reliable, highly skilled sources of employment.”
With her remaining days at CU numbered, Bo has plenty of fond memories.
“My favorite part of attending CU has been the perfect balance of academic challenge and fun,” she said. “Every day, I feel so blessed to study and work in such a majestic place. I love the proximity to the mountains, nature, sports and fun on the Pearl Street Mall. I think my favorite part is that even though we have a large student body, one can always find their home in the campus community. For me, the campus itself feels safe, welcoming and open, ultimately inspiring innovation and action.”