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Two students are first WCU recipients of National Security Education Program scholarships

By Geoff Cantrell

Two students from Western Carolina University are among an elite national group selected to receive up to $25,000 for a year of study abroad and immersion in foreign culture and languages.

Marcus Ibarra

Marcus Ibarra

Elliott Kerns and Marcus Ibarra are recipients of the David L. Boren Scholarship, named for a former U.S. senator who helped develop the program, and bestowed by the National Security Education Program.

Boren scholarship and fellowship opportunities are intended to develop a pipeline of foreign language and culture expertise for federal government service and are an initiative of the U.S. Department of Defense. The program itself also creates a much-needed strategic partnership between the national security community and higher education.

Ibarra is a rising junior majoring in political science and philosophy with a concentration in religion. Ibarra will be studying Russian in Kazakhstan as part of his overseas assignment. “Working with the government through the scholarship is exciting,” he said. “When I found out I got the scholarship, it was unbelievable.”

Elliott Kerns

Elliott Kerns

Kerns also is a rising junior, majoring in international studies and history. She will be studying Arabic in Jordan. “My dream is to pursue diplomacy within the State Department,” she said. “I’ve studied Arabic for eight years, in different dialects. When I got the news that I had been awarded the scholarship, I cried immediate tears of joy. I couldn’t believe it and I was thrilled.”

Boren awards and other prestigious scholarships are managed by the WCU’s Office of National and International Awards, which coordinates and assists students who wish to apply. Ingrid Bego, the director of the office, said she is quite pleased with Kerns’ and Ibarra’s success this year.

“This is the first time Western students have been recipients of a Boren award,” said Bego. “And to have two students in one year, that’s pretty impressive.”

For more information on how to apply, call 828-227-3899 or email Bego at to schedule an appointment. 

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