Clockwise from top left: Sariyya Atasoy, Cecilia Caro, Ayaan Natala, Samia Osman; Kristen Tuttle, Chesterfield Polkey, Jordana Palmer

St. Paul, Minn. – Seven juniors have received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to study or intern abroad during the spring 2017 term.  They are: Sariyya Atasoy from McLean, Va., Cecilia Caro from Iliff, Colo., Ayaan Natala from St. Paul, Minn., Samia Osman from Minneapolis, Minn., Jordana Palmer from Margate, Fla., Chesterfield Polkey from Jacksonville, Fla., and Kristen Tuttle from Fort Gratiot, Mich.

They represent seven of over 850 American undergraduate students from 359 colleges and universities across the U.S. selected to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply towards their study abroad or internship program costs.  The program offers grants for U.S. citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies or credit-bearing, career-oriented internships abroad. Such international exchange is intended to better prepare U.S. students to thrive in the global economy and interdependent world. Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages, and economies — making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.

Atasoy said receiving the Gilman means “having an opportunity to immerse myself in the study of the language and culture that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”  She will be going to Shanghai, China, where she’ll be taking both language intensive and economics courses. “Since this is my first time visiting China, I’m planning on travelling around the country, visiting both large cities as well as more rural areas,” Atasoy said. She has not settled on what she’ll do after Macalester but knows she wants to combine languages and travel in her future.

For Caro, receiving the Gilman has made the opportunity to study away, a reality.  “This scholarship is not only aiding me financially,” she said, “but validating the need for different perspectives to be centered, shared, challenged, learned from, and built upon.” She will be in Cochabamba, Bolivia, taking classes that focus on the critical global issues of identity, globalization, and resilience as they pertain to an ethnically diverse country like Bolivia and, she’ll be completing an independent study project looking into the social, cultural, and political impact of indigenous communities on multiculturalism in Bolivian education. Caro will be travelling to learn about other communities within the country and looks forward to engaging with and nuancing what “my Latinx identity means in the context of Latin America.” After Macalester, she plans to pursue a Master’s degree in education.

For Natala, the Gilman allows her to reach her personal and career goals abroad. She will be at the University of Cape Town in South Africa where she will take history and philosophy classes, conduct an independent research project related to her Honors topic, start a blog, study for the GRE, and connect with UCT Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows. What will she do after Macalester? “As a Mellon Fellow, I am currently researching grad school programs and mentors to help me with that process,” Natala said. “However, I will take a gap year to work on art and social justice projects in the Twin Cities before I go back into academia.”

Osman’s program is in Rabat, Morocco, and focuses on the impact of transnational migration and it’s influence on personal identities and culture. “With this research,” she said, “I hope to be able to understand how the forced migration of groups of people, especially refugees, alters their understanding of who they are and their perceived sense of home.” She also wants to improve her Arabic so she can interact on a more personal level with her research participants and get a more nuanced view of their reality. Osman is planning on law school to “further study the legal side of much of what I learned from my Human Rights and Humanitarianism Concentration at Macalester.” But after graduation, she will conduct further research on the identity of refugees and “continue to make efforts to understand what is currently a significant part of global politics and the human rights regime.”

Palmer, who will be in Shanghai, China, sees the Gilman as an opportunity to be able to travel and study internationally. She will be studying political science and sociology as well as taking Mandarin Chinese classes. During her time abroad, she said she looks forward to “travelling to different cities, interacting with the locals and explore Chinese culture.” Once she graduates from Macalester and before she applies to graduate school, she would like to intern at a think tank in DC or work with an international non-profit within Asia.

Polkey will be going to Senegal where, for the first seven weeks of his program, he will be taking courses all taught in French. “The classes will center specifically around international development,” he said. “During the last six weeks, I will be interning with an NGO where I’ll learn about the ways the Senegalese are combatting poverty in their country.” After graduating from Macalester, Polkey plans to work as a researcher at a public policy and advocacy institute. From there, he hopes to earn a joint PhD in public policy and sociology. 

Tuttle said receiving the Gilman is a huge honor. “The Gilman program connects so many students who are planning to study away or who have previously studied away,” Tuttle said, “and already I can see how helpful this network is. I’m honored to be a part of it.” She will be studying abroad in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where she plans to direct-enroll in the university (Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais) and work at an internship. Tuttle is a Hispanic Studies and Educational Studies double major, and after Macalester, she wants to teach, preferably in an elementary school.

December 19 2016

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