Thirteen GW Students Receive Gilman Scholarships

Award provides financial assistance for eligible students studying abroad.

Gilman Scholars
Left to right: Junior Joy Finneran, Study Abroad Advisor Taylor Wood, junior Samah McGona and junior Alexandra Copeland.
August 05, 2013

Thirteen George Washington University students received Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships for the upcoming fall semester. The national, congressionally funded award supports study abroad opportunities for undergraduate students who are eligible for federal Pell Grants.

GW is fifth in the nation and first in the D.C. region for its number of Gilman scholars this fall. More than $53,000 will be awarded to this year’s 13 students, who will complete research projects while studying in countries like Singapore, Morocco and Ecuador.

“It’s certainly a diverse group. We have students going to nearly every continent,” said Robert Hallworth, director of the Office for Study Abroad. “I’m extremely proud of our students and staff for putting in efforts that have resulted in so many successful scholarship applicants.”

Since 2006, the university has seen a rise in its number of Gilman scholars. Last spring marked a record of 23 recipients. Mr. Hallworth attributed increases to the recruitment efforts of Study Abroad Advisor Taylor Wood. Mr. Wood took the lead on the scholarship program this year, working with the office of Student Financial Assistance to identify Pell Grant recipients and inform them about opportunities the Gilman scholarship could offer.

Junior Samah McGona said Mr. Wood and his team were instrumental as she worked through the scholarship application process. Both Mr. Wood and Mr. Hallworth have served on Gilman application review committees and are able to provide advice to applicants. Ms. McGona received constant feedback, email reminders and edits from Mr. Wood as she put together essays and project proposals.

When she found out she’d received the scholarship, Ms. McGona said she screamed with joy. She had been stressed about how to fund a trip to Africa, but the award meant she could study education disparities in Senegal free of heavy financial burdens.

All Gilman scholarship winners must craft a follow-up project upon returning from their study abroad experience. Junior Joy Finneran, who will immerse herself in Moroccan culture for a semester, will use the knowledge she gains in her host country to inform a world literature class at Foggy Bottom’s School Without Walls.

Ms. Finneran knew she wanted to go abroad since she enrolled at GW, but she was also aware of the steep price tag associated with the experience. Now, she is preparing to leave to Morocco at the end of the month by brushing up on her Arabic and researching the country’s cultural norms—and it’s possible, she said, through the Gilman scholarship and the support she received from GW’s Office for Study Abroad.

“I think it’s so important for college students to get of their comfort zones and learn about different cultures,” she said. “I wasn’t sure it would be financially suitable for me because it’s so expensive, but GW made it really easy. It felt like everyone supported me throughout the entire process.”