CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Kolten Conklen, a junior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from Sterling, Illinois, is among 16 students nationally awarded the Beinecke Scholarship. Valued at $34,000, the Beinecke award supports graduate study in the arts, humanities or social sciences. Illinois is one of 135 colleges and universities annually invited to nominate one junior for a Beinecke Scholarship.
Conklen is pursuing a double major in global studies and East Asian languages and cultures in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology to highlight rural communities’ identities, explore their relationship with urbanized centers and share their stories.
Conklen grew up in a farming family. While a student at Sterling High School, his family hosted a series of exchange students from Italy, Taiwan and Thailand. Concurrently, Conklen was selected to study in Korea through Rotary Youth Exchange. He continued his studies of Korea and Korean language through the University of Illinois, spending the spring 2020 semester studying abroad at Yonsei University in Korea with a Benjamin A. Gilman scholarship and as a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellow. In summer 2019, he studied Chinese language and culture, and conducted environmental technology research in China as a Wanxiang Fellow.
On campus, Conklen sets up Model UN conferences for high school students, volunteers extensively in the local community through Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity and serves as a COVID-19 wellness ambassador for the university.