But it's not just American history that piques her interest. As a recipient of the prestigious National Security Education Program's (NSEP) David L. Boren Scholarship, Bahr will travel to Cairo, Egypt in August and study at the Arabic Language Institute, where she will learn about Middle Eastern history.
"I've always been very interested in the history of the Middle East," noted Bahr, who aspires to become fluent in Arabic during her year abroad in Cairo. "Arabic is a unique language and I'm looking forward to the challenge of becoming fluent in it at one of the most respected language institutes in the world."
Bahr has had experience taking foreign language classes as well as courses in international studies as an undergraduate student at USD, but she hasn't had any Arab language classes. She will, however, find herself immersed in the Arab dialect at the Arabic Language Institute, where students become fluent in Arabic as quickly as possible.
"Brenna is very interested in languages in general," noted Susan Hackemer, associate director of the honors program and coordinator of competitive scholarships at USD. "She has dabbled in Spanish, Russian and Greek. Her academic interests focus on the Middle East, and she had talked to me about ways to pick up Arabic language training since it's not offered at USD."
Even though her Arab-speaking skills are untried, her interest in the Middle East originated after the events of Sept. 11, when she decided to learn more about Middle Eastern history and culture. While her intuition to explore the Arab culture focused on how she could, someday, help the United States government, Bahr also found that there are widespread problems in the Middle East in terms of their own language.
"There's a problem with illiteracy in the Middle East," said Bahr, who will spend time, much of her volunteer time, in Egypt trying to teach people to read. "Only 30 percent of the population can read."
Her volunteer work in Egypt will focus on teaching others to read and write, but Bahr is optimistic that this experience in Cairo readies her for law school and her fluency in Arabic and other foreign languages prepares her for a career as a legal analyst for the government.
"I wanted to do something in the biggest way I could make a difference," Bahr said. "I'm excited about going to Egypt, but I love it here at USD. The people here are rooting for me; they want me to be successful."
As for the reputation that the Middle East can be a relatively unstable locale for persons traveling abroad, that hasn't dampened Bahr's enthusiasm about spending the upcoming academic year abroad, especially for a history major.
"It's the birthplace of civilization," added Bahr, the daughter of Jeff and Kenna Bahr of Aberdeen. "Besides, it's in Egypt, which is relatively safe, and that's appealing to my parents."
Bahr is USD's third Boren Scholar. NSEP Boren Scholarships are merit-based, offering recipients an oppor- tunity for undergraduate students from the United States to study abroad. The maximum award is $8,000 for a summer, $10,000 for a semester.
and $20,000 for a full academic year.