Sixteen Lehigh students and faculty have received national competitive scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year, a record number for the university. Among those, 10 students received The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a state department award that helps fund students’ study abroad, and one student won a prestigious Marshall Scholarship, the first Lehigh student to do so in 40 years.
“These high-profile prestigious national competitive scholarships give students real unique opportunities to study or explore something that might not be possible in the United States,” said Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost for international affairs.
“It is something more than just a study abroad experience,” she said. “These are titles that stay with you for the rest of your life.”
Matherly said Lehigh always had students who qualified for the scholarships but they weren’t applying. Applications increased when the Office of Fellowship Advising moved two years ago from the Provost’s Office to the Office of International Affairs, which communicated with other departments to identify those interested in working abroad and worked closely with students.
Each scholarship application has its own requirements, but the office can assist students and faculty on the entire process.
“We now have a more formal structure and a better process for recruiting,” Matherly said.
The scholarships, which allow recipients to conduct research, study or teach abroad or support research in the United States, provide opportunities for students to study at institutions with the most expertise in their particular fields. That helps students to pursue post-graduate passions and achieve goals, Matherly said.
Marshall Scholar Klaudia Jazwinska ‘18 will work on two one-year master’s at two prestigious universities in the United Kingdom. She will first study at Cardiff University, where she will receive a degree in computational and data journalism.
Jazwinska’s interest in data journalism was evident in her various editor positions at Lehigh’s The Brown and White. She worked with data analytics to help other editors understand the newspaper’s online performance. She also analyzed Facebook users’ information last summer in a Mountaintop project, Polytics, in which she and a team of students examined the relationship between users’ preferred news sources and their political ideology.
Diana Rivas Garcia ’19 is the first Lehigh student to be part of the Gilman Critical Need Language Supplement program, which provides an additional $3,000 of funding to the Gilman scholarship. The scholarship is available to undergraduate students who will receive Pell Grants and will study abroad during the year they applied for the program.
After studying in China under the Iacocca Internship, Garcia said she realized spending more time in China to take classes would benefit her in a future career, possibly in government. Only a few weeks before the application was due, Garcia was encouraged to apply for the Gilman Scholarship so she could continue her time there.
After working with the Office of Fellowship Advising, she said she was happy yet surprised she was able to put together an application quickly. She said she couldn’t have done it without the help of Bill Hunter, director of fellowship advising. She was able to study in China last spring as a Gilman Scholar.
“It is a wonderful example of how our new model for supporting students is doing what we hoped would be accomplished,” Matherly said.
The Fulbright Scholarship allows scholars to choose from over 160 countries where they can continue their studies after graduation. The nationally competitive Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest exchange program in the United States.
In addition to student recipients, Lehigh faculty have taken advantage of furthering their research or teaching internationally under the Fulbright Scholarship. Traditionally, the Fulbright Scholarship allowed faculty to do work for a year in another country.
Three students and two professors received the merit-based grants in five different countries.
Matherly said she knows it can be difficult professionally and personally for some professors to leave for a year. The Fulbright Specialist program gives faculty an opportunity to teach abroad for two to six weeks.
Steven P. Sametz, the Ronald J. Ulrich Professor of Music and director of Lehigh University Choral Arts, is the first Lehigh professor to be a Fulbright Specialist. He gave weekly lectures, taught seminars, conducted and worked with various choirs in January in China.
Sametz said in addition to doing work in the country, the scholarship allows scholars to form relationships. Jinyun Shen, who helped organize some of his events in Nanjing, China, will be a visiting scholar at Lehigh next year.
“It is really important to look at world relations and to have substantive time to work and study with people in other countries,” Matherly said.
Garcia said the scholarship gives students the opportunity to be immersed in the country that they are interested in studying.
“You really get to learn the culture and language,” Garcia said. “I got a glimpse of Chinese society and different parts of the world while interacting with others, which also helped me improve my language skills.”
She said one of the best parts was to obtain a new perspective on subjects because it helped her to understand other viewpoints and make comparisons to how classes are taught at Lehigh.
The deadline for the 2019-2020 Fulbright scholarships is Oct. 9. They are still reviewing 2018-2019 applicants. Applications for the Gilman Scholarship is due Oct. 15 for 2019-2020 academic year. The 2019 Marshall Scholarship deadline is Oct. 1 at 5 p.m.
Story by Madison Hoff