KINGSTON – The University of Rhode Island has been recognized by the Office of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State to be a Leading Producer of International Benjamin A. Gilman Fellows among Sized Colleges and Universities average over the past 20 years.
Since its inception in 2001, the State Department’s Gilman program has reshaped study abroad to make it more accessible and inclusive for American students by offering scholarships to outstanding undergraduate American students who, due to financial constraints, might not participate otherwise.
URI is among the top 20 institutions over the past two decades, recognized for supporting equity, diversity, and accessibility of study abroad for U.S. students through the Gilman program, producing more of 100 Gilman Scholars since 2001.
“We’re really, really proud of it,” said Tom Hospod, deputy director of URI’s education programs abroad, which helps oversee the Gilman program. “Historically, study abroad programs were primarily aimed at students with financial means. The URI has really helped make this possible for students, and the Gilman program has become a real cornerstone in helping to make study abroad easier for students who otherwise would not be able to afford it. to allow.
The Gilman Scholarships are open to American undergraduate students who receive Federal Pell Grant funding in a two or four year college. By supporting undergraduate students who have high financial needs, the program has been successful in supporting students who have been historically under-represented in education abroad, including, but not limited to, undergraduates. first generation, ethnic minority students and students with disabilities.
“We run information sessions several times a semester because we want students to meet other people who have taken the program,” says Hospod. “We have a lot of students who have a lot of responsibilities – they can work, they can commute, they can help support their families – and so even taking a short time off for a program like this is a big commitment. We want them to know that the State Department sees them too – that through the program they can go overseas and act as citizen diplomats and maybe open the door to other opportunities later on. the road. “
Many Gilman Program alumni have won other prestigious scholarships and awards, including the Fulbright and Critical Language Scholarships, also administered by the US State Department, as well as the Boren Prize. Additionally, exchange program alumni of any of the three programs administered by the State Department are eligible for 12 months of non-competitive employment status in the federal government, with the possibility of extension if certain criteria are met.
Michael Roderick of Tiverton graduated from URI in 2013 and credits the program for sparking his interest in the Foreign Service. Following his internship at the US Embassy in Lithuania under the Gilman Program, Roderick applied for and won a Fulbright Fellowship, which allowed him to teach English for two years in South Korea. He then served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Macedonia for two years and intends to enter the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.
“I received a lot of support from the URI’s Office of International Education,” Roderick said. “I certainly wouldn’t have had the opportunity to live and study abroad without the Gilman. As this was my first time traveling abroad alone, it was a jumping off point for me and it really helped me serve as a launching pad for everything I’ve done since.
For Liana Tun, a native of Newington, Connecticut, now living and working in Atlanta, the opportunity to study abroad through a Gilman scholarship while majoring in nursing has made her much more marketable as a nurse. Although she had taken Spanish lessons in high school, the self-described “bad candidate” did not feel that she could fit a second major into her compulsory courses as a student in medical care. When she realized that it would take a little longer for her to graduate, staff at the Bureau of International Education urged her to make the most of her overtime by applying for stock Exchange. Ultimately, the time spent studying in an intense, teacher-led Spanish program in Salamanca, Spain allowed her to add a major in Spanish, which led to her graduation in December. 2018 with Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. .
“Growing up, my family income was not very high. As a first generation student, I didn’t even know if I could afford higher education, ”Tun said. “So it was a very emotional moment for me when I realized ‘If I get this scholarship, I can do it, I can have two degrees.’ And I really couldn’t have done it without the Gilman scholarship.
When Gilman scholarship winner Nathaniel Sandoval ’21 of Providence saw his study abroad plans in Spain curtailed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was able to delay the start of the program. ‘a year. Although conditions did not improve, Sandoval was able to keep her scholarship and turn her initial plan to study Spanish in Salamanca into a postgraduate distance learning internship with a Barcelona-based guarantee fund.
“COVID has changed everything,” Sandoval said. “Although I was really disappointed that I couldn’t study abroad, one of the strengths of this experience is the network I have built and the knowledge of the organization I am currently working with. delighted to eventually travel to Spain and reconnect in person with the people I have met.
But Sandoval will travel to Nicaragua and Hawaii first to work with local nonprofit organizations on sustainable housing development projects thanks to a Michael P. Metcalf scholarship he received through Rhode Island. Foundation. He also applied for a Fulbright scholarship to teach entrepreneurship and business development in Colombia. He credits the Gilman Program and the Bureau of International Education with credit for helping him prepare for these competitive application processes.
As a first generation student, Sandoval seeks to pay for his good fortune. “I have a lot to look forward to. It’s not just these scholarships that make a difference in my life, but that I will be able to make a difference in the lives of many people, in a completely different environment, in a completely different country.
Since the Gilman program began in 2001, more than 34,000 Gilman Fellows from all US states, Puerto Rico, and other US territories have studied or completed internships in more than 155 countries around the world. The program is named after the late Congressman Benjamin Gilman, who served in the United States House of Representatives for 30 years and chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Gilman helped secure the passage of the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, which established exchange programs for American students to study abroad.
To learn more about the Benjamin A. Gilman International Fellowship program, including application deadlines and upcoming information sessions and workshops, visit the URI Office of International Education.