By Terri Lockwood
BOONE, N.C. — The Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships (NCS), a division of University College at Appalachian State University, announces a record six Appalachian students have been awarded the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Recipients are scheduled to study or intern abroad or online starting January 2021.
Scholarship recipients Victoria Anderson, Ciara Sailar, and Jemiah Williams, from the College of Arts and Sciences, Michael Gaines, and Stephanie Garcia Henao, students in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, and Makayla Nordine, a student in the Beaver College of Health Sciences received Gilman awards to travel to the Dominican Republic, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, and Costa Rica, respectively.
The Gilman International Scholarship Program — funded by the U.S. Department of State in honor of the late Benjamin A. Gilman, a former U.S. Rep. from New York — increases the number of students who study or intern abroad by providing financial support to undergraduates who could not otherwise afford to travel internationally. The scholarship makes it possible for recipients to experience international cultures and to learn languages of their choice.
Each Gilman Scholar receives up to $5,000 in funding to study or intern abroad. Applicants who intend to study a critical need language while abroad can apply for a supplemental Gilman Critical Need Language Award of up to $3,000, for a combined scholarship total of up to $8,000.
Victoria Anderson, a senior in International Criminal Justice, plans to intern in the Dominican Republic for the social development organization, Entrena. In addition, Anderson will work with the independent nonprofit organization Alerta Joven, which is dedicated to improving the human condition.
“I will be working to gain a deeper understanding on the issues of child marriage and domestic violence in the Dominican Republic,” said Anderson. During her internship, Anderson will also take virtual Spanish language classes. “When I return, I plan on connecting both of these programs together to make a study abroad guide for first-generation college students, like myself.”
Ciara Sailar is a senior geology major with a concentration in paleontology. She explained that the Gilman scholarship has made it possible for her to attend a field camp in Italy, in fulfillment of a geology capstone requirement.
“It has always been a dream of mine to travel to Italy to study both the geologic history and the culture,” Sailar stated. She discovered that Appalachian has a faculty-led program that fulfills the field camp requirement. Sailar said she hopes to gain a better understanding of Italian language and cuisine while also fine-tuning her geologic mapping skills while studying abroad.
“When I return, I hope to spread awareness of the Gilman Scholarship within the department of geologic and environmental science at ASU so that others may use this resource as a way to travel abroad while fulfilling their field camp requirement,” Sailar continued.
Sociology major Jemiah Williams, whose professional aspirations are to become a social justice attorney or international relations sociologist, has an academic concentration in social inequalities and a minor in history.
Williams was recently accepted into the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), which allows students to switch their respective country and college with that of a student from another country as a way of building cultural competence. She explained that the Gilman award will help her realize several goals by providing the funds needed to travel to the United Kingdom.
“I applied for the Gilman Scholarship in hopes of getting funds to help me finance my [ISEP] program,” said Williams. William’s sociology background fuels her international interests. “While I am studying abroad, I would like to gain a better understanding of other individuals from marginalized groups like myself. I believe that this foundation will strengthen my academic abilities in the field of sociology and allow me to open my scope of education as I further my studies,” she continued.
Michael Gaines, a non-traditional student and author who is working on his third book about the life of a beer brewer, returned to school after a 12-year hiatus. His major is studio art with a concentration in photography. Gaines plans to travel to Spain to study another artistic discipline, ceramics.
Gaines says he hopes to inspire other non-traditional students to study abroad, adding “When I decided to go back to school, a number of friends told me that my focus and dedication to it were inspiring and they were going back to school, as well.”
He continued, “I wanted to use that positive energy to be able to share my experiences with studying abroad, how the Gilman Scholarship helped to make that possible, and try to persuade others to do the same. I want them to see that it is possible,”
Stephanie Garcia Henao
Stephanie (Gianny) Garcia Henao is a junior studying industrial design, minoring in sustainable technology, and is an honors student. Henao plans to travel to Belgium to study at Howest University in Kortrijk for a full year starting February 1, 2021.
“I will cover design collaboration projects with students from other fields as well as immerse in the Belgian student design Curriculum which is one of the main reasons I want to go to this school,” Henao said. Her goal is to become a sustainable designer in the field of product design or electrical car, clean energy business.
Makayla Nordine, a junior majoring in exercise science with a minor in Spanish, hopes to travel to Costa Rica next year. She expects to enhance her Spanish language skills while there.
Nordine explained that she was attracted to the Gilman Scholarship Program because of its requirement to complete a post-program project. She said, “This means I will have the ability to share my experience with other students when I return and hopefully help more students with financial setbacks be able to study abroad!”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the international travel component of the Gilman award, some of the student’s chosen programs were canceled. However, students now have several options, including choosing a new program/location, deferring to another program planned within the time frame of January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021, or switching to a virtual program.
Gilman encourages applications from first-generation college students, students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, those in the military, students attending community colleges and minority-serving institutions and any student interested in traveling abroad.