News Bureau | ILLINOIS

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Three University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign undergraduates are among 208 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 US interests. In the 2022-23 academic year, Boren Scholars are slated to study in 29 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East, studying 21 different languages.

Ella Dennis individual portrait

Ella Dennis

Photo by Elisa Segura


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Ella Dennis, of Downers Grove, Illinois, and a graduate of Downers Grove North High School, was awarded a Boren Scholarship for the fall semester to study Wolof at the West African Research Center in Senegal. A sophomore double majoring in global studies and psychology, Dennis is a member of the Campus Honors Program and serves as a social justice peer educator at the Campus Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations. She is simultaneously employed remotely as a foreign policy research fellow at the Alliance for Citizen Engagement, a think tank where Dennis publishes policy briefs on topics of development, human rights and indigenous climate change mitigation in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dennis also volunteers for the United Nations at the Tanzania Development Trust, creating GPS routes to help facilitate young girls’ and women’s safe journeys to shelters in rural Tanzania. Dennis said she aspires to work as a program development advisor within the US Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Africa, evaluating and designing development missions in West Africa.

Jake Gulick individual portrait

Jake Gulick

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Jake Gulick, of Villa Grove, Illinois, and a graduate of Villa Grove High School, was awarded a Boren Scholarship to study Arabic for the academic year at the Sijal Institute for Arabic Language and Culture in Amman, Jordan. A senior in political science and a member of the Campus Honors Program, Gulick has spent the past year at the Land of Lincoln Legal Aid working with clients who cannot afford a lawyer in expungement, family law or order of protection cases. On campus, Gulick is also a captain of the Illinois Trial Team, which competes at collegiate mock trial competitions.

After graduation, Gulick said he hopes to first work in the U.S. State Department as a consular fellow assisting foreign nationals in obtaining visas to the United States. He plans to attend law school and seek a career as a legal adviser at the State Department, negotiating agreements and arguing cases on behalf of the federal government.

Brendan Rattin individual portrait

Brendan Rattin

Photo by Dean Rattin


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Brendan Rattin, a graduate of Libertyville High School and a resident of Libertyville, Illinois, received a full scholarship for the academic year to study Mandarin language and invest Taiwan’s success in negotiating the COVID-19 pandemic at National Taiwan University. A junior in molecular and cellular biology, Rattin has spent the past 18 months working in the Jie Chen Molecular Biology Laboratory. He also works as a medical interpreter and as the interpretation department head at Avicenna Community Health Clinic.

Rattin has volunteered with UNICEF since his first year of high school, and as a freshman at Illinois created a mental health-based startup, vrtumind, that provides free meditation content to students. Rattin said he envisions a career working with the National Institutes of Health to improve the public health infrastructure and respond to future national threats.

NSEP is a federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of US citizens with foreign language and international skills. The Boren Awards provide US 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.

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