College of LAS senior Gabriel Wacks is among 221 nationwide recipients of David L. Boren Scholarships awarded by the National Security Education Program. The program enables undergraduate students to add important international and language components to their educations by studying overseas in world regions critical to U.S. interests throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Wacks, of Skokie, Illinois, and a graduate of Rochelle Zell Jewish High School in Deerfield, Illinois, has been offered a $20,000 Boren Scholarship to support his academic year intensive Chinese language studies at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in China. Wacks, an East Asian languages and cultures major with a minor in history, has conducted research with the campus Program in Arms Control and Domestic and International Security, as well as for the department of East Asian languages and cultures. He previously spent a semester studying abroad in China.
On campus, Wacks has served as the vice president of the registered student organization ACDIS Security Studies Group and as the senior editor of the Illini Journal of International Security, a peer-reviewed undergraduate journal. He also has received recognition for his contributions in Model United Nations. Wacks’ long-term goal is to work as a political analyst or foreign service officer focused on East Asia.
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. students with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of our nation. In exchange for funding, Boren Award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year.
“The National Security Education Program is helping to change the U.S. higher education system and the way Americans approach the study of foreign languages and cultures,” said Michael A. Nugent, NSEP director.
“To continue to play a leadership role in the world, it is vital that America's future leaders have a deep understanding of the rest of the world,” said David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma who, as a U.S. senator, was the principal author of the legislation that created NSEP and the scholarships and fellowships that bear his name. “As we seek to lead through partnerships, understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential.”
A second U of I senior, Jason Ho, of Naperville, Illinois, also received the scholarship this year.
Ho, a graduate of Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, has received $19,800 to fully fund his study of Mandarin for nine months at National Taiwan University. Ho is seeking dual degrees in finance and in information systems and information technology from the Gies College of Business at Illinois. He previously spent a semester studying and working as a research assistant at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and last summer worked as a management intern for the U.S. Department of State in Taiwan.
At Illinois, Ho served as an executive manager for Illinois Enactus, a project-based social entrepreneurship organization, where he led 15 students to achieve best practices in project management, entrepreneurship and project execution for local businesses, schools and nonprofits. Long-term, Ho aims to pursue a career as a management foreign service officer in the U.S. Department of State.