Illinois students awarded Boren Scholarships

This is a re-post of an article posted by the Illinois News Bureau regarding four students at the University of Illinois selected as recipients of David L. Borne Scholarships. For the original article, please see https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/809539.

University of Illinois Boren Scholarship recipients for 2020. Clockwise from top left: Haley Nelson, Folashade Olumola, Melanie Rohla, and Matthew Schultz.

Four students at the University of Illinois were selected to study in world regions critical to U.S. interests as recipients of David L. Boren Scholarships. They are among 217 students nationwide chosen by the National Security Education Program to study languages in 44 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Four University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign undergraduates are among 217 students nationwide awarded David L. Boren Scholarships.

The National Security Education Program selects students to add international and language components to their education by studying overseas in world regions critical to U.S. interests. In the 2020-21 academic year, Boren Scholars and Fellows are slated to study in 44 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East, studying 46 different languages. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the program is adjusting grant start dates so that recipients can proceed with their overseas language study when it is feasible to do so.

Haley Nelson, of Lake Forest, Illinois, and a graduate of Lake Forest High School, has been awarded a full scholarship to participate in the Turkish Flagship Language Initiative, which provides Boren Scholars with intensive study of the Turkish language through a combination of domestic and overseas programs. Nelson will pursue a year’s worth of Turkish language studies through the University of Wisconsin, Madison this summer, followed by continued language study at Azerbaijan University of Languages in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Attending Illinois on a swimming scholarship, Nelson is a junior double-majoring in political science and Russian, East European and Eurasian studies. Last summer, Nelson attended an intensive Turkish language program at the U. of I. She also has studied Russian and Ukrainian. In preparation for a career focused on Turkish and Russian culture and foreign policy, Nelson participates in the campus Program in Arms Control and Domestic and International Security.

“The unique perspectives that ACDIS helped me uncover, my desire to commit my knowledge to U.S. national security and the addition of Turkish fluency will give me the skills needed to gather information on Turkish culture and intelligence in my career,” Nelson said.

Folashade Olumola, a graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High
School and a resident of Calumet City, Illinois, has been awarded a Boren Scholarship to study Arabic at Sijal Institute for Arabic Language and Culture in Amman, Jordan.

A sophomore in political science, Olumola spent the past year on campus working as a resident assistant for housing and as an undergraduate research ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Research. Simultaneously, she has served as a Virtual Student Federal Service Internship with the U.S. Agency for International Development Operating Unit of the U.S. Mission to the African Union. She also is an active member of the campus Program in Arms Control and Domestic and International Security.

Olumola aspires to work as a foreign service officer for USAID under the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance. She said she hopes to “focus on strengthening governance accountability through the inclusion of youth, anti-corruption and peacebuilding.”

Melanie Rohla, of Lisle, Illinois, and a graduate of Lisle High School, has been awarded a full scholarship to participate in the African Flagship Languages Initiative, which provides Boren Scholars with intensive study of African languages through a combination of domestic and overseas programs. Rohla will pursue a year’s worth of Swahili studies this summer through the University of Florida, followed by continued Swahili studies in Arusha, Tanzania.

Rohla, a senior pursuing majors in global studies and earth, society and environmental sustainability, will return to a familiar region. Her first exposure to East Africa was during a two-week trip to Rwanda in high school. She has returned twice, on a Critical Language Scholarship to Tanzania and for a semester study abroad in Kenya. She is a member of the Campus Honors Program and established a campus organization, Project Connect, to get peers involved in refugee assistance.

Rohla has worked as an intern for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in the U.S. Department of State, where she would like to return in her career. “The cultural and linguistic knowledge I will gain from the Boren program will allow me to communicate with local people, understand their input and experiences, and thus create better refugee programs and policies for East Africa,” Rohla said.

Matthew Schultz, of Arlington Heights, Illinois, and a graduate of

Matthew Schultz, Boren Scholarship recipient 2020

Prospect High School, has been awarded a full scholarship to participate in the African Flagship Languages Initiative, which provides Boren Scholars with intensive study of African languages through a combination of domestic and overseas programs. Schultz will pursue a year’s worth of French and basic Wolof studies through the University of Florida this summer, followed by continued language studies at the West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal.

Schultz is a senior pursuing majors in Frenchpolitical science and Spanish. He has worked on campus promoting study abroad through Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange and in the community as an interpreter and translator for The Immigration Project, a nongovernmental organization providing legal services to immigrants in Illinois. He spent a semester studying abroad and volunteering with an NGO serving the Paris homeless population and another summer teaching English in Morocco.

An aspiring diplomat, Schultz has taken classes in 10 different languages including Turkish, for which he was awarded a Critical Language Scholarship. “I envision myself drawing upon my knowledge of global affairs and my linguistic capabilities in a career representing the United States on the international stage,” Schultz said. “Nothing sounds more exhilarating and worthwhile to me than continuing to learn about the world as I lead collaboration efforts across cultures and protect freedom globally.”

A fifth Illinois student was named a Boren alternate.

NSEP is a major federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. NSEP’s Boren Awards program provides U.S. undergraduate and graduate students with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of the nation. In exchange for funding, Boren Award recipients agree to work in the federal government for at least one year. Since 1994, more than 7,000 students have received Boren Awards and contributed their skills to careers throughout the federal government.

Editor’s note: For more information on the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois, contact David Schug, director, 217-333-4710; topscholars@illinois.edu

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