The university was among top institutions in sending students to study abroad with State Department Gilman Scholarships.
By B.L. Wilson
George Washington University was among the top universities sending students abroad in 2016-2017 under the United States State Department Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship.
Among medium-sized colleges—those with student enrollment of 5,000 to 15,000 undergraduates—GW was in the top tier for the number of students procuring the scholarship aimed at involving more low-income, minority and first-generation students in foreign study and internships. GW had 22 Gilman Scholars in the time period.
In the past six years, GW has had 116 Gilman Scholars, many more than its counterparts. “Nationally, we’re ahead of our competitive institutions. . .actually miles ahead,” said Donna Scarboro, associate provost for international programs.
At GW, the scholarship has funded the study of Arabic for students participating in programs in Amman, Jordan, as well as internships and semesters in South Africa, and Shanghai and many other destinations.
Savon Jackson is an adviser in the GW Office of Study Abroad who received a Gilman scholarship in 2014 to study in India. “Students traveled to a wide variety of locations with many disciplines,” he said, referring to destinations of the university’s Gilman Scholars in 2016-2017. In fact, GW outperformed all universities of its size in the variety of destinations.
Jackson said the State Department encourages students going to nontraditional locations and offers additional money if they are taking a designated critical-needs language, including Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Farsi and Japanese.
GW senior Nkechi Okoronkwo went to New Delhi. “I was studying poetry and its power as a tool for healing from sexual violence,” she said. “So my research had me interviewing women from all walks of life, who had experienced being raped and molested. “
Ms. Okoronkwo’s scholarship covered expenses for four months abroad traveling to Rajasthan in northern India where she visited organizations that helped women farmers trying to improve conditions in mountain villages. She studied Hindi and learned about the culture of different communities in India. She plans to return to India in the fall to further her study of the language.
Hilary Wilson, exchange program coordinator and interim director of the Office of Study Abroad, attributes the growing number of Gilman Scholars at GW to the involvement of advisers such as Mr. Jackson who have raised awareness of the program, brought low-income, minority and first-generation students, many of them Pell Grant recipients, into the Office for Study Abroad and conducted workshops on applying.
The scholarship covers expenses in addition to any university-funded financial assistance students may already be receiving.
“Buying a plane ticket for some students is a big expense,” said Ms. Wilson. “That can be anywhere from $500 to $2,000, maybe even higher.” Students may use the awards however they want. The scholarship awards range from $1,000 to $5,000. Almost 50 students applied for the Gilman Scholarship this year.
Dr. Scarboro said that GW is “proud and honored” by its success in the competition for Gilman Scholarships. “The GW students who apply for these scholarships represent the spirited way our students seize their own futures,” she said.