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Five W&L Students Awarded Gilman Scholarships to Study Abroad The Gilman Scholarship Program offers awards of up to $5,000 to U.S. undergraduate students who are Pell Grant recipients.

All-gilman-2 Five W&L Students Awarded Gilman Scholarships to Study Abroad

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program announced its latest round of recipients for the academic year. Five students were accepted from Washington and Lee University.

This spring’s W&L recipients included:

  • Connor Lafo ’26 to study Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan.
  • Brandon Lee ’27 to complete an internship in Spain.
  • Diane Pierre-Louis ’26 to complete an internship in South Africa.
  • Geena Ravelo Cepero ’27 to study Portuguese in Portugal.
  • Joaquín Villagran-Hernandez ’26 to study Latin American migration in Mexico.

“These outstanding students continue to demonstrate that Washington and Lee is a truly global campus,” said Dallas Tatman, assistant director of fellowships and visiting instructor of anthropology. “I am so proud of each of these students. Their tenacity, bravery and intellectual curiosity will take them far individually and will benefit the entire W&L community when they bring their knowledge and experiences back to inspire us.”

Award recipients can study and intern abroad during the spring, summer, fall, winter or academic year term. Three of the five Gilman recipients will be using their award for summer opportunities. Six other W&L students were awarded the Gilman Scholarship during Fall Term 2023.

Lafo will study Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan through funding from the Gilman-Taiwan Scholarship, a partnership between the American Institute of Taiwan and the Taipei Economic Cultural Representative Office in support of the Gilman Program. He will spend Fall Term 2024 in Taiwan and take a course in Sinophone cinema to enhance his understanding of Chinese culture.

“Receiving the Gilman Scholarship as a first-generation college student will allow me to not only be the first in my family to study abroad, but also to hone and apply my Chinese language skills,” said Lafo, a biology and East Asian Languages and Literature double major from North Port, Florida. “This opportunity will truly help me better understand the broader world and how I fit into it.”

Lee, an economics major and data science minor at W&L, will complete an education internship in Seville, Spain this summer. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Lee moved to Vienna, Virginia when he was three years old. Lee will serve as a teacher’s assistant, helping teach English to students aged four to 12. He will also take classes on language acquisition theory and teaching methodologies and is looking forward to learning different cultural perspectives and new ways of communicating through education.

“Thanks to the Gilman, I’ll be able to gain hands-on experience in the field of education, as well as improve my Spanish in a really unique and immersive way,” Lee said.

Pierre-Louis, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, is a neuroscience major with a poverty and human capability studies minor. She will complete an internship in the health care field, focusing on mental health, in Cape Town, South Africa this summer. She is grateful for the cultural exchange opportunities the Gilman Scholarship provides, and she anticipates her internship at a clinic will help her develop valuable skills as she pursues a career in healthcare.

“I am extremely grateful for the invaluable opportunity to intern abroad as I recognize it is an experience that very few students receive,” Pierre-Louis said. “By working in Cape Town, I will gain practical, hands-on experience beyond the confines of traditional learning environments. This intersection of academic insight and real-world application will undoubtedly shape me into a more capable and empathetic healthcare professional in the future.”

Ravelo Cepero plans to declare a politics major and is grateful for the opportunities the Gilman Scholarship provides to broaden her linguistic abilities, exchange cultural ideas and become a more universally minded individual. Ravelo Cepero, who will study Portuguese history, politics and language this summer in Lisbon, Portugal, received a Critical Need Language Award to further support her study of Portuguese.

“I feel so incredibly thankful to W&L’s fellowships office and to the Gilman Scholarship Program for this opportunity,” the Las Vegas, Nevada native said. “As a student from a low-income family, studying abroad, especially in the summer, feels unachievable and because of the generosity of the Gilman program and the help of our fellowships office, my illusion that study abroad is ‘unachievable’ has been completely shattered.”

Villagran-Hernandez is a global politics and sociology double major and education policy minor from Snow Hill, North Carolina. He will participate in the SIT Mexico: Migration, Borders and Transnational Communities program in Oaxaca, Mexico, during the upcoming Fall Term. He will study the social, political and economic aspects of migration in Mexico and Central America, specifically looking at how policy and the criminalization of migration affects communities in the U.S. and Mexico.

“Being awarded the Gilman Scholarship is a privilege and testament to the opportunities that are made available to W&L students,” Villagran-Hernandez said. “This scholarship speaks to the work and journey I have taken since arriving on campus and is a continuation of that journey. The studying abroad experience will expand my knowledge outside of the classroom setting while better understanding what it means to be a global citizen.”

Since the inception of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program in 2001, more than 41,000 scholarships have been awarded to students participating in study abroad programs and internships around the world.

The Gilman Scholarship Program, named for retired congressman Benjamin A. Gilman, seeks to diversify the kinds of students who study or intern abroad and the countries and regions they visit by offering up to $5,000 to U.S. undergraduate students who are Pell Grant recipients. The scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the Institute of International Education administers the program.

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