Amber Pirson

Amber Pirson

Amber Pirson smiles in front of Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn.

On a spring day in 2019, Amber Pirson sat in a coffee shop on the first floor of her dorm in Bangkok, Thailand. After finishing up her homework and studying for a quiz, she caught a motorbike, a ride that costs about $1, to her three-hour Thai language class in the city.

With the support of the Boren Scholarship, Amber united her interests in U.S. foreign policy and language to pursue intensive Thai language study at Chulalongkorn University. Outside of class, she interned at Winrock International’s Asia Counter Trafficking in Persons Project (CTIP), where she learned about the role of forced labor in transnational corporations and concurrent attempts in the global community to prevent forced labor in global supply chains.

 Amber, who double majored in Anthropology and International Studies at the University of South Florida (USF), had forged a longstanding path in advocacy for preventing human trafficking before studying in Bangkok. Attending a presentation about child exploitative labor by the organization “No More” in middle school inspired her to volunteer and fundraise on behalf of the organization. Participating in the Fulbright UK Summer Institute on Slavery and the Transatlantic Heritage at the University of Bristol in 2017 opened her eyes to global institutional reliance on forced labor in various forms. Amber’s experience in the UK reignited her interest in preventing labor trafficking and led to her working in an orphanage in Thailand that aims to protect girls from the sex trade the following summer. 

 Amber also served as a legal intern at the Justice Restoration Center in Clearwater, Florida, where she worked to expunge records of human trafficking survivors and contributed to efforts to close legal loopholes and protect victims. However, observing this work on a global scale through the CTIP in Thailand helped her realize that she could implement legal precedence for corporations to uphold forced labor laws by becoming an attorney. 

 In 2019, Amber was also recognized as a finalist for the Truman Scholarship. In her application, she proposed a policy to enact a pretrial court diversion program for trafficking victims with the aim of moving them out of the criminal court system to rehabilitative programs, preventing their convictions. “Law has the political capital to keep individuals safe and healthy,” Amber says. “The Truman Scholarship application challenged me to funnel my ideas for change into a concise message that could be shared, and possibly implemented, by legislators.”

 Amber emphasizes that applying for national scholarships is a very reflective process and can initially be intimidating. She recommends to future applicants to be patient and brave enough to be honest with themselves. “Any national scholarship will force you to look at yourself and identify your core interests and why they exist within you,” Amber says. “It is quite difficult to plan five to seven years down the road, but that is the best and most difficult part of these application processes.”

Amber graduated from USF and the Judy Genshaft Honors College in May 2020. Currently, she is pursuing a J.D. at Cornell University Law School. Her career plans include working in federal or state government to ensure protection of labor rights and prevent human trafficking throughout interstate trade agreements.  


The Boren Scholarship provides funding for undergraduate students to study less common languages in underrepresented regions, such as Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. After graduation, Boren Awardees commit at least one year of service in the federal government.

The Fulbright U.K. Summer Institutes are three-to-four-week programs for rising sophomore and juniors. Participants can explore the culture, heritage and history of the U.K. while experiencing higher education at a UK university. Students will have the opportunity to study alongside leading academics and professionals, develop knowledge in specific fields, experience cultural and social events, and become an ambassador for studying in the UK, for the Fulbright Commission and their host institution(s).

The Truman Scholarship recognizes future "change agents" who possess the intellect and leadership potential that will enable them to improve the ways that public institutions serve the public good. Eligible applicants are junior-level academic standing and wish to attend professional or graduate school to prepare for careers in government or the nonprofit and advocacy sectors.