MISSOULA – The world awaits for five outstanding University of Montana students, who recently were awarded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships. The prestigious awards help students fund study or internships abroad.
The UM 2021 Gilman Scholars are Alec Bartell, a freshman from Lynchburg, Virginia, bound for Japan; Rosamond Ferguson, a junior from Helena heading to Norway; Lucy Rath, a freshman from Bozeman who will study in Ireland; Anya Smith, a senior from Ronan also departing for the Emerald Isle; and Jewel Wicks, a junior from Inverness bound for Korea.
Four of the students will experience other cultures in Asia and Europe during the fall semester, and each will receive $4,000 for expenses. Bartell earned $8,000 to live abroad in Japan for an entire academic year.
“These are competitive awards that help our students gain international experience, which can be critically important to their academic and career development,” said Kylla Benes, UM director of prestigious scholarship and fellowships. “The fact that UM earned five Gilmans this year truly highlights the academic excellence of our students.”
After hiking the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, Bartell came to UM to major in both philosophy and English/creative writing. He will attend Tohoku University in Japan, where he will hone his Japanese while taking courses on Asian and Western philosophy, as well as Japanese literature.
“Studying writing in a culture that views the merits of literature different from the ones I grew up reading will be a transformative element during this foundational part of my writing career,” Bartell said.
He said earning the scholarship was important because it enables students paying their own way through college to contribute to a globalizing conversation.
“Oftentimes, opportunities like studying abroad are locked behind monetary numbers incomprehensible to students paying their own way, like myself,” Bartell said. “Public programs like the Gilman’s scholarship switch the narrative. With this scholarship I am enabled a wider perspective – one I cannot gain solely in Montana.”
Ferguson majors in journalism, with a minor in environmental studies. She will attend the Artic University of Norway in Tromsø, which is the northernmost university in the world.
She intends to take classes on arctic oceanic ecology and climate, international environmental law, Sami indigenous peoples and arctic archaeology, bridging the gaps between the sciences and the humanities.
“Some of these courses have incredible opportunities to study climate change from a lens we don’t have in Montana, such as exploring the ocean’s immense role in our climate from the deck of a boat,” Ferguson said. “It was important for me to earn the Gilman scholarship because it’s reassuring that there are groups that acknowledge the importance of supporting students as the costs associated with our education rise.
“I believe international education in particular encourages a deeper understanding and compassion for the lives and cultures of others,” she said. “Hopefully, it will also help us fully recognize the weight of climate change and explore our potential options for how the world can collectively move forward.”
Rath majors in cultural anthropology and has two minors: international relations and film/cinema studies. At UM, she made the choice to study anthropology, international development, global leadership and documentary filmmaking – subjects that will allow her to connect with the world and tell meaningful stories.
She will use her Gilman award to attend University College Cork in Ireland, which attracted her with its concentration in ethnography and offerings in ethnographic fieldwork.
“I’m eager to combine my passions with my education to discover the world beyond the mountains of my hometown and guarantee my success as an international student,” Rath said. “After talking with my study abroad adviser and learning about potential scholarships – especially the Gilman – I was inspired to apply for financial support. Receiving the Gilman will allow me to focus on my studies and less about money while in Ireland, and I am incredibly grateful for that.”
Smith majors in anthropology with a minor in public health. She also will use her Gilman Scholarship to attend University College Cork in Ireland.
She said delving into the culture of Ireland will help her gain a broader understanding of the human experience and help her pursue a professional career in screenwriting. She said her anthropology degree would feel incomplete without the experience of living in a foreign country.
In particular, Smith is excited to take a class in Ireland that focuses on the important rituals and celebrations in Irish culture.
“Learning about ritual is a gateway to learning about healing,” she said. “Ritual is often an important part of the healing process. This class will go toward my degree concentration in medical anthropology, as ritual is often an important part of the healing process.”
When she applied to study abroad in Ireland, Smith wasn’t entirely sure how she would pay for it.
“Studying abroad has always been my dream, and I wasn't going to let financial concerns stop me,” she said. “Earning this scholarship makes a massive difference for the feasibility of my study abroad trip to Ireland.”
Wicks majors in psychology, with two minors: global public health and international relations. She plans to study in Seoul, South Korea. She intends to study the LGBTQ+ community in Korea and why suicide remains the highest-leading cause for death among South Korean youth. She said young people in Montana and South Korea experience similar mental health issues.
“I feel a keen sense of curiosity to find out what factors South Korea and Montana have in common to create this environment where suicide rates and mental health stigma thrive, when in reality they are diverse in culture, language and location when compared to each other,” she said.
Wicks is excited to start her adventure this fall.
“To grow up in a town of 100 and then go to Seoul, South Korea, for a semester surrounded by the skyscrapers and Buddhist temples will be a dream come true,” she said.
Since its inception in 2001, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program has enabled students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, providing them skills critical to our national security and economic prosperity. The program is administered by the Institute of International Education. Students are encouraged to complete a follow-up project related to their Gilman experience when they return to the United States.
Contact: Kylla Benes, UM director of scholarships and fellowships, 406-243-5241, firstname.lastname@example.org.