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UMD Named Top Producer of Gilman Scholars

Designation Recognizes Commitment to Supporting Study Abroad Opportunities for Students With Financial Need

By Laura Barnhardt Cech

McKeldin Mall

The University of Maryland was ranked No. 12 on the U.S. Department of State’s ranking of the top 20 producers of Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships among large institutions. The new list marks the 20th anniversary of the program that funds study abroad for American students with financial need.

Photo by John T. Consoli

During an environmental conservation course, Senior Shivani Amin talked to farmers using irrigation techniques in rice fields in Indonesia. Jahi Madzimoyo, a government and politics student, learned about the intricacies of the European Union—in Europe. And Delight Dzansi studied international development and conflict management in a place that has required a lot of it—Kosovo.

The three students are among 280 at the University of Maryland who received Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to study or intern abroad since the program’s 2001 founding, earning the university a “20-year Overall Top Producer” designation from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs program.

The ranking of large institutions announced last week is significant, said Francis DuVinage, director of UMD’s National Scholarships Office: “It sends the message to the public about the university and its priorities of making sure students’ finances are not an impediment to having these valuable international experiences.”

The scholarship is awarded to students of limited financial means (eligible for Pell Grants); they receive an average of $3,500 for their pursuits abroad and can spend from three weeks over a semester break to up to a year studying languages, working in internships or studying as part of an exchange program.

Dzansi ’20 spent the summer of 2019 traveling through the Balkans and taking academic courses in Kosovo, where everything from roads to business was under construction. “They’d been building back after a war and their experience is very vivid,” she said.

Madzimoyo lived with a host family in Paris in Spring 2019, taking seminars about French and international politics and refining his French in a language exchange group. He saw the Sacré-Cœur Basilica the way Parisians do—sitting on the steps at night, after dining on Moroccan food with friends.

“Studying the European Union in France gave me a different, well-rounded perspective,” said Madzimoyo, who graduated in May and is earning a master’s in public policy at UMD.

Amin, who was already taking an extra semester to double-major in computer science and biology, wasn’t sure her schedule or finances would permit study abroad, but was thrilled to have the opportunity to spend three weeks in winter of 2020 traveling with a group of students led by a UMD professor. “It’s such a rich culture, and having the unique opportunity to learn about it firsthand from those who call Indonesia home was incredible,” she said.

The scholarship program, named for a former U.S. congressman, is intended to better prepare U.S. students to work in an increasingly global economy and to increase opportunities for first-generation college students from diverse backgrounds.

"Historically, study abroad has structurally excluded students of low income families, students of color, and first-generation students. Our partnership with the Gilman Scholarship Program supports the University of Maryland's commitment to addressing these inequities and making sure that global learning is universal on our campus,” said Ross Lewin, associate vice president of international affairs. “We are proud to be recognized among the top institutions producing Gilman Scholars and will strive to reach higher heights in the future."

The Education Abroad office also provides $1,000 scholarships to students who complete Gilman applications through the National Scholarships Office and go on to study abroad. “Research in the field shows us that barriers such as lack of representation, finances and safety concerns impact students’ interest in applying for international programs. Our goal was to address those barriers in our programming for Gilman applicants, and incentivize them to apply to our programs through the Gilman Scholarship,” said Leeanne Dunsmore, director for education abroad, who previously worked for the U.S. Department of State.

Gilman recipients, who receive up to $5,000, are chosen through a competitive selection process. Students who are studying languages deemed “critical languages” by the State Department such as Arabic and Chinese can receive an additional $3,000 Critical Need Language Supplement.

Last year, six UMD students received Gilman Scholarships. They studied in Germany, South Korea, Italy, India, New Zealand and virtually through UMD’s Global Classrooms program.

“As the world’s economies and populations become more interconnected, the benefits of learning about other nations first hand have grown exponentially,” said William A. Cohen, associate provost and dean for undergraduate studies. “The Gilman Scholarship is among the many competitive, prestigious awards available to our undergraduate students. These opportunities provide support for a variety of educational and cocurricular experiences such as study abroad, federal employment, teaching, research and public service.”

The University of Maryland is also a “Top Producer” of Fulbright Scholars, and last year students received prestigious Churchill, Gates-Cambridge, Marshall and Barry Goldwater scholarships.

Schools & Departments:

Office of Undergraduate Studies

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