TU Pell Grant recipients win award to expand study abroad access

By Cody Boteler on September 29, 2020

Award underscores Towson University’s commitment to social mobility

Nine Towson University students who are Pell Grant recipients were each awarded a $5,000 scholarship to support their study abroad plans, highlighting the university’s success in creating an environment where all students achieve.

TU students who are Pell Grant recipients achieve nearly the same graduation success rate as the entire student body. Towson University was recently recognized by “U.S. News & World Report” as one of the best colleges in the country for social mobility.

The ranking recognizes TU’s commitment to creating opportunities for all students, including studying abroad.

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships program expands opportunities for study abroad for Pell Grant recipients who have demonstrated financial need that might otherwise preclude them from the opportunity. TU has had 29 student recipients since spring 2012, according to data collected from the Study Abroad Office.

“Gilman is a very competitive and prestigious scholarship, so it speaks to the excellence of TU applicants for us to have so much success over the years,” says Jacklyn Fisher, assistant director of the Study Abroad Office. “This achievement means TU students who study or intern abroad are goal oriented, academically prepared, diverse of background and destination and are leaders who make a positive impact in their communities.”

Several of the Gilman awardees from TU said the award will significantly lessen the financial burden of studying abroad in the future. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Towson University has suspended all study abroad for 2020, and for the 2021 Minimester.

“It’s really empowering,” says Kaila Hodge, a sophomore studying information systems.

A member of the Honors College who also participates in Honorables of Color, she had planned to study abroad in England this term. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, her she now intends to study abroad during the next fall term on a TU Exchange.

“ I dreamed of going to these places, of going abroad, but I never thought that could be a reality. ”

Amina Carter, scholarship recipient

Towson University offers multiple study abroad opportunities, and students on a TU Exchange pay regular TU tuition and fees. Hodge says the combination of the TU Exchange and the Gilman award makes studying abroad more achievable.

Amina Carter, another Gilman recipient, says she is the first in her family to travel outside of the country. She says TU made it easy for her to apply for scholarships to study abroad.

“It’s really amazing,” Carter says. “My mom never had these experiences. I’m from a single-parent household. I dreamed of going to these places, of going abroad, but I never thought that could be a reality.”

Carter, a senior studying English secondary education, had planned to study abroad in Spain over the summer but now will go to England in the spring.

Jarelyn Perez, a prenursing major and board member of TU’s chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals for America, says her plan to study abroad before the novel coronavirus pandemic was a term in Costa Rica, learning Spanish for health professionals.

Her current plans are undecided, but Gilman recipients have until December 2021 to start their study abroad trips, which gives students plenty of time to decide on a program.

Perez said a study abroad advising session helped her find the scholarship, and that as a first-generation college student, she wouldn’t have otherwise known where to apply.

“This scholarship will make it much easier to study abroad,” she says. “I don’t have to worry about the finances associated with my program as much.”

The Gilman Scholarship Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Applications are accepted twice per year, in March and October. The October deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on Oct. 6.

In order to apply for a Gilman Scholarship, all students must attend a group advising session and meet with a study abroad adviser unless participating in a TU faculty-led program.

Virtual group advising sessions are held Monday through Friday at 2 p.m. in the Virtual Study Abroad Classroom at bit.ly/towsonuabroad. Anyone with questions about the application process, or other topics related to study abroad, can contact the Study Abroad Office at 410-704-2451 or studyabroad@towson.edu.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland and Diverse and Inclusive Campus.