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Department of Defense Awards Prestigious Scholarship to Second Boise State Undergrad

A portrait
Donato Callahan, photo by Priscilla Grover

Freshman biological sciences student Donato Callahan is overflowing with drive and ambition: he already has secured competitive internships from Montana to Iceland for the next three summers. This week, Callahan added another accolade to his burgeoning college resume: he became the second Boise State student this year to earn a highly competitive Department of Defense (DoD) SMART Scholarship for Service.

The scholarship will cover his college tuition, as well as a living stipend, for up to five years. In exchange, Callahan will intern with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Virginia and work for the agency for three years upon graduation.

“I’m grateful and thankful that the SMART scholarship recognizes that bio-sciences are as important as engineering and other science degrees,” he said. “I’m glad that I was able to show that I’m a valuable resource.”

The SMART Scholarship Program was established to strengthen the Department of Defense science and technology workforce with highly skilled science and engineering professionals. While in school, participants perform research as summer interns at DoD laboratories and return to those laboratories after graduation to complete a period of obligated employment service. This provides scholars with a unique opportunity to perform research in their respective area of interest that they would not have otherwise been able to do.

Callahan first chose to attend Boise State for its access to the great outdoors – the Iowa native is an avid backpacker and biker. He entered college with plans of becoming an environmental engineer before enrolling in a biology class that changed his focus.

“I switched to bio and it’s been amazing,” he said. “I’m extremely interested in what we’re learning. It’s made me realize I want to be a conservation or research scientist. Upon leaving high school, I looked at college in a different light than most. I envisioned my collegiate career as a tool, and it was up to me to graduate with more than just a piece of paper, and now I’ve engineered my degree to ensure that no door is left unopen.”

In addition to interning at the National Geospacial-Intelligence Agency, Callahan anticipates interning at the Peregrine Fund next spring as a conservation education intern; completing a six-week internship in Limpopo, Africa with Global Vision International focusing on leadership and wildlife biology, among other things; completing a 10-week semester in Montana with Swan Valley Connections for 16 credits of upper division biology and environmental courses; and attending a two-week week sustainability conference in Iceland focusing on sustainability and international policy with an emphasis on geothermal energy at the Reykjavik School of Renewable Energy.

The SMART scholarship is awarded in staggered phases, contingent on available funds. Callahan is Boise State’s fourth winner since the program’s inception. Fellow Boise State freshman Sammie Fullmer also was awarded a SMART scholarship this year.