NAU Education Abroad guides record number of students to Gilman Scholars despite pandemic

Passports from various countries

A record number of nine students from Northern Arizona University’s Education Abroad program received the U.S. Department of State’s prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which funds study abroad opportunities. The Gilman program is offered through the Institute of International Education and the scholarship is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Since 2001, the Institute of International Education has administered the program to give American students the opportunity to gain proficiency in diverse languages and cultures that will contribute to their own development, national security and economic prosperity.

“In our globalized world, now more than ever, it is important for young people to gain exposure to new cultures,” said Amanda Williamson, Education Abroad adviser. “Students gain new perspectives on their field of study by seeing how their major is studied in other countries, and they also learn about people from all walks of life. Learning about new cultures gives students new insight and can shift the way they think about their home culture. It also offers the ability to build student resumes and professional networks, offering career advancement opportunities.”

The scholarship also alleviates some of the financial constraints that students might face when studying abroad.

“The cost of a university education is already challenging for students, which is why Education Abroad highly prioritizes accessibility through affordable options in programming and scholarship availability,” Williamson said. “In addition to applying their FAFSA and tuition waivers on most programs, students also can apply for a wide variety of scholarships, including the Gilman. We hear from students every year who express that without their scholarship funding, they would not have been able to go abroad.”

Recipients went through a competitive selection process guided by Williamson, National & International Scholarships and Fellowships academic success coordinator Andrea Graves, and dean of the Honors College Kevin Gustafson.

“This past year and a half has been exceptionally difficult for all of us, but especially our students,” Williamson said. “The hard work and dedication embodied by these students is evident in the overwhelming success of this year’s Gilman applicants and awardees. While Education Abroad, the Honors College and the University Writing Commons all provided support in the application process, the students’ success in this achievement is entirely their own and we are incredibly proud of their hard work.”

This year’s recipients were:

Andrea Corona, junior, criminology and criminal justice

  • NAU in Belize, Belize

Christopher Mills, senior, Spanish

  • Costa Rica NAU, Costa Rica

Emma Gasior, junior, communication studies

  • University of Sheffield, England

Hailey Lopez, junior, creative media and film

  • Hanyang University, South Korea

Jessica Contreras, junior, Spanish and communications studies (double major)

  • Universidad del Salvador, Argentina

Melody Aguila, senior, biology

  • Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Spain

Mishaella Felipe, alumna, international affairs

  • Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil

Rebekah Hwang, senior, dental hygiene

  • Sogang University, South Korea

Stacie Lowe, senior, strategic communication

  • Seoul Women’s University, South Korea

Due to the current state of the pandemic, not all awardees will be eligible to receive their funding or study abroad. The Gilman program has a policy that funding will not be given to students intending to study in a country ranked as a Department of State Travel Advisory Level 3 or 4. Other students have had their study abroad trips cancelled altogether due to a country’s response to the pandemic.