In partnership with the Institute for International Education, Virginia Tech’s Global Education Office will help study abroad advisors from around the country learn about two prestigious State Department programs that encourage undergraduate students to pursue academic study abroad opportunities.

The office was selected to lead the virtual workshop on Feb. 19 to support the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) programs. They are part of the State Department’s efforts to increase and diversify the institutions and students participating in both programs.

About 60 study abroad advisors attending the workshop will receive information on best practices for promoting the programs, supporting applicants, and crafting competitive essays. Attendees will receive helpful resources and the opportunity to discuss how to best advise students during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the Global Education Office, representatives from the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid, the Writing Center, and the Honors College will lead sessions. Past Gilman and CLS recipients will also participate on an alumni panel during the workshop. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Virginia Tech to highlight these important scholarships and share our expertise with colleagues in the field,” Global Education Director Theresa Johansson said. “The Gilman and CLS are outstanding examples of the Department of State’s commitment to expanding access to study abroad and increasing students’ opportunities to learn in locations of strategic importance to the world’s future.”

The Gilman and Critical Languages Scholarship programs are part of the State Department’s ongoing efforts to increase and diversify the number of U.S. students studying abroad. The Gilman and Critical Language Scholarship programs are supported in their implementation by the Institute of International Education and American Councils for International Education, respectively. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, “People‑to‑people exchanges bring our world closer together and convey the best of America to the world, especially to its young people.”

The Gilman Program awards over 3,000 scholarships annually to outstanding undergraduate students who, due to financial constraints, might not otherwise study abroad. Since 2012, Virginia Tech has produced 32 Gilman Scholarship recipients and supported travel to locations that include Latvia, Belize, Switzerland, and New Zealand.

The CLS Program provides fully funded overseas opportunities for 550 American undergraduate and graduate students to study one of 15 languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity. Since 2007, the program has funded the language instruction pursuits of 12 Virginia Tech students to such locations as Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, and Jordan.

As the Global Education Office’s primary scholarships advisor, Marielle Wijnands, assistant director for student services, guides students through the application process for both programs. “It is so important for international engagement to be integrated into every student’s educational experience, and these scholarships allow a path so that can be achieved,” Wijnands said. "We're excited to host this workshop and learn from our peers. And in the process, we hope to discover ways of improving access to study abroad for underrepresented students."

Applications to the Gilman Scholarship are now open for students whose in-person or virtual programs start between May 1, 2021, and April 30, 2022. The CLS Program will open its next application cycle in the fall for the summer 2022 program.

For information on study abroad programs and opportunities, contact the Global Education Office, part of Outreach and International Affairs, at vtabroad@vt.edu

Written by Rommelyn Conde Coffren