Twelve out of 26 student applicants at The Evergreen State College have received a 2014 Benjamin A. Gilman Study Abroad Scholarship, winning a total of $46,500, with individual students winning $3000 to $5000 for a year’s study overseas.
Applicants from all over the U.S. compete for these federally funded scholarships. Evergreen’s 46.15 percent success rate places the college third among all competing colleges and universities in the nation. UC Berkeley and Syracuse University, with 35,000 and 20,000 students respectively, came in first and second place. Evergreen has 4,400 students.
Michael Clifthorne, Evergreen ‘s academic advisor for international programs, believes Evergreen’s unique approach to study-abroad programs keeps the small liberal arts and sciences college competitive against universities several times the size.
“The study-abroad programs at most schools focus on traditional European destinations, whereas Evergreen faculty focus on a much broader scope of countries, especially Latin America,” Clifthorne said. “The structure for the programs is different, focusing on social justice and community organizations, giving students real connections with real people on the ground.”
One scholarship winner did admit to hesitation before pursuing the award. “At first, I didn’t want to apply because I was intimidated by the competition. However, when most of my peers who applied won, my perspective dramatically changed and I decided to apply,” said Evergreen student Quinn Snow. Snow is using the Gilman Scholarship to fund an independent study project in Japan.
Other Evergreen Gilman recipients are pursuing independent studies in studying Arabic while volunteering in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and collecting folk songs while teaching music to children in South Africa. Other winners are participating in Evergreen faculty-led programs, including the study of Quechua culture, language, and landscape in Peru. Another program is studying animal behavior and zoology in the tropical rainforest of Ecuador, making comparisons to the temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest.
Clifthorne says the Evergreen academic advising office’s commitment to encourage students comes from a passionate belief in what study abroad can do in a student’s life.
“Study abroad takes us out of our comfort zone. Students return transformed, especially students who are the first in their families to attend college,” Clifthorne said. “After working and studying in such a different setting then they’ve previously experienced, students are rewarded with a fresh, vibrant perspective on living.”
The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship for Study Abroad was founded in 2000 as a part of the International Academic Opportunity Act and named after U.S. Congressman Ben Gilman. The scholarship is currently administered by the non-profit Institute for International Education and funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.