Monday, May 11, 2020

Julia Reichart, a public health student at the University of Iowa, earned a 2020 David L. Boren Fellowship, and will spend next year studying Portuguese in Brazil. 

The Boren Fellowships, an initiative of the National Security Education Program, provide unique funding opportunities for U.S. graduate and undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. 

Hometown: Waukee, Iowa
Degree: public health 

What drew you to your language studies?
In my time as an intern and volunteer at Relief Nursery, a non-profit therapeutic preschool and community center for children living in at-risk homes, many of the children whom I worked with were English language learners. I witnessed firsthand the impact that communicating in an individual's first language can have on fostering relationships and delivering essential services. I noticed a significant improvement in my ability to connect with each child and understand their needs as I improved my language skills. Since this experience, I have committed to making language studies a priority. I believe that improved proficiency in Portuguese will aid me in my pursuit of a career in the global maternal and child health sector.

How do you foresee this influencing your future career?
My time in Brazil will undoubtedly result in both personal and professional growth. I hope that this experience will help me develop an ability to build partnerships across cultures, preparing me well for the career I aspire to have within the global health sector. True proficiency in a language is best achieved through full immersion, therefore I knew I needed to pursue this opportunity in an effort to achieve the level of proficiency my future aspirations require.

What excites you most about spending a year in your host country?
What excites me most about spending a summer in Brazil is living with a Brazilian host family, having the opportunity to study Portuguese in a more personal way, with the ability to focus on dialectal differences and culture. I also look forward to further developing my Portuguese skills within my internship, improving my ability to converse about health topics in a professional way.

Do you have professors or mentors you'd like to thank?
I would like to thank Dr. Chorazy, Kim Klinedinst, and Sophie Switzer within the College of Public Health for encouraging me to pursue global opportunities, and working with me to make my goals a reality. I would also like to thank Jane Huffman and Garik Himebaugh, two people that have used their positions as supervisors to act as faithfully supportive mentors. Finally, I am eternally grateful for Dr. Karen Wachsmuth and Dr. Christopher Squier for critiquing my essays and supporting my pursuit of the Boren Award. I am incredibly privileged to have the support system that I do, as well as the time and financial means needed to pursue this award.

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.” 

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,” says 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

Explore the many funding opportunities open to UI students and alumni

Students are encouraged to begin their funding searches and applications at least six months to one year in advance.  Schedule an advising appointment with Karen Wachsmuth to discuss your interest in an international fellowship or begin an application (as a UI undergraduate student, graduate student, or alumna/us).