Villanova junior Karolina Wolnicki was recently announced as a recipient of the Boren Scholarship, making her the second University student to receive the nationally competitive scholarship this year.
The David L. Boren Scholarship provides funding for American undergraduate and graduate students to study for a semester or longer in a foreign country.
Supported by the National Security Education Program, the scholarship is reserved for students pursuing the study of a critical language in a region of interest to United States national security.
Recipients of the Boren Scholarship receive up to $10,000 toward study abroad expenses.
Wolnicki plans to study Portuguese in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil during the 2014 spring semester. She will live with a host family and take classes at the Catholic University of Salvador.
Portuguese is considered a critical language by the NSEP, and Brazil is listed on the program website as a country of interest for United States national security.
Wolnicki also commits herself to at least one year of public service after graduation as part of the scholarship requirements. She will work in a position with national security responsibilities in the Department of Defense, State, Homeland Security or in one of several other federal departments.
Wolnicki is the fourth Villanova student to win a competitive Boren Scholarship. Earlier this year, sophomore Christine Fossaceca was announced as a recipient for her studies of Korean language and computer engineering at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. Fossaceca will also be studying abroad during the 2014 spring semester.
Jane Morris, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, commended the students on their reception of the prestigiou scholarship.
“Villanova students are competing with students in colleges and universities across the United States,” Morris said. “It’s obviously a wonderful reflection not only on the students themselves but also on their preparation.”
Both Wolnicki and Fossaceca displayed strong preparation for the demands of the scholarship program in both their academic and their extracurricular activities.
Wolnicki is a Spanish and Global Interdisciplinary Studies double major with a penchant for foreign language study. She speaks fluent Polish and has studied Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and French. During high school she participated in language immersion programs in El Jadida, Morocco and Badajoz, Spain.
In addition to her academic pursuits, Wolnicki serves as an interpreter for the College of Nursing and College of Engineering’s Telehealth Project in Waslala, Nicaragua. She also works as an interpreter at the Villanova Law School Clinic and has taught English to non-English speaking immigrants at the National Service Center in Philadelphia.
Wolnicki hopes her career will allow her to continue her involvement in the area of international public health. She aspires to do grassroots-level work with a non-governmental organization.
“Working with the health workers and being there hands-on is my dream job,” Wolnicki said. “I want to do something that is fulfilling to helping people and actually seeing the change rather than being up high somewhere. Something that translates to visible action rather than a gold-plated title.”
Fossaceca also comes from a strong academic and service background. A Presidential Scholar, she is a computer engineering major with minors in business and theology.
During her time at the University, Fossaceca has joined the Korean Student Association, participated in several Campus Ministry service programs and built a competition-ready race car as a member of the Formula SAE team. She hopes to pursue a career in cyber security with the National Security Agency.
This year, the NSEP received 947 Boren Scholarship applications from around the country. Wolnicki and Fossaceca were among 161 recipients.
Hanna Lee, assistant director of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, cites the students’ dedicated personal drive and focused career goals as reasons for their strong candidacy for the scholarship.
“Our students who are successful in these processes tend to have a lot of depth,” Lee said. “They’ve demonstrated that they’ve had an impact within their communities and their organizations, rather than just having a sort of laundry list of activities.”
Lee went on to explain the importance of integrating one’s academic interests with his or her extracurricular activities.
“What they’re learning in the classroom they’re applying in their internships and in their service work,” she said. “That kind of depth and cohesion and consistency really makes them stand out.”
Applicants completed a rigorous application process and were judged on the basis of commitment to government service, commitment to language study, academic record and cultural adaptability.
The Boren Scholarship has existed since 1994 as a means of strengthening the federal national security workforce through education.
Applications for the Boren Scholarship are due the previous February of the intended academic year of study abroad.