Contributed photo of AFROTC cadet Ellise Brennan.

Ellise Brennan Receives Prestigious Boren Award

Ellise M. Brennan has been awarded a Boren Scholarship to study in Jordan during the 2020-21 academic year. Ellise Brennan is currently a ROTC undergraduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of St. Thomas. She will study intensive Arabic at Amman in Jordan.

The David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), a federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. Boren Awards provide 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 United States. 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,” according to Dr. Michael A. Nugent, director of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO), “is helping change the U.S. higher education system and the way Americans approach the study of foreign languages and cultures.”

Studio headshot of Ellise Brennan, taken on May 14, 2019 in St. Paul.This year, the Institute of International Education (IIE), which administers the awards on behalf of NSEP, received 784 applications from undergraduate students for the Boren Scholarships and awarded 217; 268 graduate students applied for the Boren Fellowships and 119 were awarded. The selected Boren Scholars and Fellows intend to study in 44 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. They will study 46 different languages. The most popular languages include Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, French, Turkish and Indonesian. Given the unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic, IIE will work flexibly with 2020 awardees to ensure that as many as possible are able to proceed with their overseas language study when it is safe and feasible to do so.

Since 1994, over 7,000 students have received Boren Awards and contributed their vital skills to careers in support of the critical missions of agencies throughout the federal government.

“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 former U.S. Senator David Boren, the principal author of the legislation that created the National Security Education Program. “As we seek to lead through partnerships, understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential.”

An independent not-for-profit founded in 1919, IIE is among the world's largest and most experienced international education and exchange organizations. Undergraduate and graduate students interested in applying for the Boren Awards should contact IIE at or visit

"Working through the application for the Boren Scholarship allowed me to hone my professional skills through a variety of essays," Brennan said. "The writing required by Boren allowed me to go in-depth in research about the national security importance of a critical country and language. In addition, while writing about my future plans, I was able to articulate how I want to work to shape the future through what I have learned as a result of my life experiences. The importance of learning about language and culture in areas of high importance is an unparalleled skill crucial to the prosperity of our future. Simply applying for Boren allows for a unique opportunity to build professional qualities while learning about national security policy and the importance of understanding culture and language. While applying for a Boren Award you will work toward building an academic program that will suit your needs as a student. This is an opportunity to choose a country, language and an institute. This flexibility creates an environment for you to decide how your skills and interests correlate to an academic plan."