International experiences for everyone
What Wofford does to ensure that students have the opportunity to study abroad.
Study abroad is a major component of Wofford’s commitment to shaping globally connected citizens, and cost should never be a barrier for a student when considering a semester abroad, says Amy Lancaster ’01, dean of international programs.
“We were so proud when two of our students — Aleah Qureshi and Tim Lindsey — recently received the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, giving them up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad experiences this spring,” Lancaster says. “These scholarships are available to students receiving Federal Pell Grants, so it assists students in helping fund their international experiences.”
Wofford encourages and assists students who want to study abroad through a variety of its own scholarships and travel grants, both need-based and merit-based, she adds. “Along with Wofford permitting the transfer of students’ financial aid packages, these scholarships and grants make study abroad possible for more students. This is part of who we are as a college, and we’re determined to make these transformative experiences accessible to all of our students.”
Lancaster says the staff of the Office of International Programs works with students to find study abroad programs within their financial parameters that support their academic and personal goals.
The college also works to identify scholarships and grants available beyond Wofford, such as the Gilman Scholarship. “Some of them are diversity based, and others are awarded based on field of study,” she says. “Our partners also have allocated funding for us to award at our discretion, and we have dedicated those funds to improving access for under-represented groups.”
Kyle Keith, study abroad coordinator, has spearheaded the office’s new efforts to recruit students of diverse backgrounds and assist them with opportunities such as the Gilman Scholarship. “Kyle’s own experience as a Gilman Scholar informed his work in advising both Tim and Aleah. He just joined our team in July, but his impact with students is already quite visible,” Lancaster says.
“Our office is spreading the word about study abroad and scholarship opportunities in many ways,” Keith says. “We coordinated with our colleagues in the Office of Financial Aid, for example, to directly email all students who receive a Federal Pell Grant about the Gilman Scholarship.” He notes that the Gilman Scholarship is intended to widen access to study or intern abroad opportunities to many different student groups, including students with high financial need, students of color, student-athletes, students majoring in STEM disciplines and others. “It also encourages students to study or intern abroad in non-traditional destinations, such as Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
Keith adds that Wofford has seen a record number of students applying for the Gilman Scholarship since the success of Qureshi and Lindsey, “and because of the intentional outreach efforts that we have made to promote this scholarship to eligible students.”
In addition, Wofford has done more targeted marketing and outreach initiatives for historically under-represented student populations, Keith says. “This year, we’ve held events such as ‘Black & Abroad,’ where students of color could learn more about study abroad opportunities and could have open discussions about the intersections of race and ethnicity and international education.”
Keith says he also is working with Spectrum, the college’s LGBTQ student organization, to promote study abroad opportunities to LGBTQ-identified students. “Our hope is that by doing more intentional outreach, we can help all Wofford students realize that a study abroad experience is, indeed, accessible.”
Wofford already provides some scholarships and assistance to students for study abroad, such as the Ruth O. and Joab M. Lesesne Foreign Study Assistance Fund and the Road Less Traveled scholarship, which recently has been expanded to include more locations from which students may select for their study abroad experience.
The Wofford Fund, the college’s drive for annual gifts that support projects, programs and other priorities critical to the prosperity of the college, includes a “bucket” for “Student Experiences,” which provides a vehicle for donors at any level to support and enhance student experiences, including study abroad. “We already have several active funds that provide assistance for students studying abroad, and now we have had several donors recently establish endowments to support study abroad,” says Calhoun Kennedy ’89, associate vice president and executive director of advancement. Most are in the process of being funded, so their activation will take a while, “but we do have donors who recognize the importance of study abroad and wish future students to have the opportunity. We invite others to become involved in this initiative as well.”
“International study experiences are more important now than ever,” Lancaster says. “They expose our students to new and unfamiliar cultural contexts in an effort to promote intercultural understanding and acceptance. The world our students will enter after graduation is increasingly interconnected, and those with experience living, studying and working with those from a different background will be more adaptable, more tolerant for ambiguity, better problem solvers and critical thinkers, and therefore, more civically minded and more attractive to a future employer or graduate school.”
by Laura Hendrix Corbin