Four UNC-Chapel Hill students win Boren Awards

Four University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students are being recognized by the National Security Education Program with Boren Awards, which support fields of study identified as critical to the national security of the United States, particularly language study.


Nicole Behnke, Devin Duque, and James Hepburn were three of 106 graduate students chosen for David L. Boren Fellowships and Marissa Muller was one of 244 undergraduate students chosen for a David L. Boren Scholarship. Behnke, Duque, and Hepburn are the 18th, 19th, and 20th Boren Fellows from Carolina and Muller is the University’s 15th Boren Scholar. The Boren Awards program provides 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 our nation. In exchange for funding, Boren Award recipients agree to work in the federal government for at least one year.


“Thanks to the National Security Education Program, three Carolina students will advance their language skills and understanding of other cultures, which will help them better serve our nation and the world,” said Interim Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz.* “A nation’s major challenges usually have global dimensions that require global solutions. Nicole, James and Marissa’s accomplishments demonstrate their global mindsets. Thanks to the Boren Awards, they will further their studies and work in areas critical to our national security.”*


“We are delighted that our talented Carolina students have won Boren Awards. This is a new record for us. These students all aspire to use their language learning in ways that will increase the security of the United States and its allies,” said Professor Inger Brodey, director of the Office of Distinguished Scholarships.


Nicole Behnke

Behnke, 25, from Durham, is the daughter of Paul and Debra Behnke. She graduated from Carolina in 2016 with majors in peace, war and defense and political science and a minor in environmental studies. She is currently a graduate student in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her Boren Fellowship will fund her study of Modern Standard Arabic at Qasid Arabic Institute in Amman, Jordan.


Behnke came to UNC-Chapel Hill as a Morehead-Cain Scholar, becoming a member of Honors Carolina and a field researcher in Zambia with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Water Institute. After graduating from Carolina, she worked as a research assistant at Water 2017, a global water advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. As a current graduate student in the second year of pursuing a master’s of science in public health in environmental sciences and engineering, she continues to work as a graduate research assistant at the Water Institute and worked as a water, sanitation and hygiene research intern at World Vision International. She received a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship to study Arabic through UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies for the 2017-2018 academic year.


Devin Duque

Duque, 23, from Asheville, is the son of Ramon and Sarah Duque. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2018 with majors in Peace, War, and Defense and Political Science, and a minor in Spanish Professions for Law. He is currently a graduate student with the Transatlantic Master’s program and is pursuing a Master’s of Art in Political Science. With his Boren Fellowship he will take part in the Africa Flagship Language Initiative program and study Portuguese at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique.


As a student at Carolina, Duque focused on linguistics and security studies. He received a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) scholarship to study Portuguese from the Center for European Studies in January, 2018 and later received a FLAS fellowship for graduate studies from the Center for Global Initiatives for the 2018-2019 academic year. He is a former Triangle Institute for Security Studies scholar and served as Vice President for European Horizons.


James Hepburn

Hepburn, 23, from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, is the son of Winthrop Brent and Anita Hepburn. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree with distinction in mathematics and philosophy. Hepburn is currently a graduate student in UNC-Chapel Hill’s global studies program in the Russian, Eurasian and East European concentration. He plans to use his Boren Fellowship to study Polish and economics at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, during the summer of 2019 and to study economics and Polish language, history and literature at Warsaw University in the fall.


At USC, Hepburn was the recipient of a President’s Award, the Distinguished Senior Award and the philosophy department’s Tait Scholarship, among others. In 2017, the U.S. Department of State awarded Hepburn the Gilman Scholarship to study in Budapest, Hungary. He has worked as an intern with the Budapest Institute in Hungary, analyzing documents on labor policy and social services in Central Europe. While at UNC-Chapel Hill, the Bruno Kessler Foundation in Trento, Italy, selected Hepburn to study fundamentals and methods for impact evaluation of public policies.


Marissa Muller

Muller, 20, from Charlotte, is the daughter of Fred and Lourdes Muller. She is currently a third-year student at Carolina majoring in peace, war and defense and Chinese and minoring in global cinema studies. She plans to use her Boren Scholarship to study Mandarin with the CET Harbin study abroad program in Harbin, China.


While at UNC-Chapel Hill, Muller has volunteered as a Chinese translator at Glenwood Elementary School in Chapel Hill and worked as a resident computing consultant at ResNet and an office assistant at the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life. She currently serves as the president of St. Anthony’s, the co-ed arts and literature fraternity, and is a contributor to the Carolina Political Review.


*At the time of original publication, Devin Duque was an alternate. On May 13th, he was upgraded from an alternate David L. Boren Scholarship winner to an awardee.