UArizona pilots Gilman Campus Association program

Feb. 19, 2024
Two UArizona students smile at the camera in Bear Down Gym.

Gilman alumni answer questions at the spring Study Abroad Fair.

For more than two decades, the Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship has played a transformative role in the landscape of study abroad. Its mission is to enhance the accessibility and inclusivity for American students by awarding scholarships to exceptional U.S. undergraduates. These scholarships provide the means for students who are financially limited to partake in study abroad experiences that might have otherwise been beyond their reach.  

Now, as one of the nation’s top producers of Gilman scholars, the University of Arizona has been named as a pilot campus for the new Gilman Campus Association, a program designed to build a greater community amongst students who have studied abroad due in part to receiving the Gilman award.

“The Gilman Alumni Network has a robust program with benefits like noncompetitive hiring among federal jobs and professional development for students,” said UA Study Abroad Program Manager Dafne Johnson. “The Campus Associations mirror those experiences and benefits for Gilman alumni, but closer to home. This program not only offers the opportunity to create a robust University of Arizona network, but also a chance to bring the voice of personal experience to current Gilman applicants through workshops and special events.” 

Students applying for the Gilman Scholarship face the intimidating task of writing essays that reflect their aspirations and qualifications. As part of the new Gilman Campus Association, UA Study Abroad assists applicants in navigating this process by offering in-person and virtual information sessions, writing workshops, and walk-in advising geared toward unpacking the complexities of the Gilman scholarship. Each step of the way, students are encouraged to work with and learn from Gilman alumni, who offer their perspectives and share their strategies for success.

“Their firsthand experiences navigating the application process and achieving success will serve as a source of guidance for current applicants,” said Johnson.  

UArizona Gilman alumni intern Valentina Ayala-Dean smiles at the camera

UArizona Gilman alumni intern Valentina Ayala-Dean.

One of the individuals helping support students through the different stages of the application process is the Gilman Alumni Intern. Psychology major Valentina Ayala-Dean is a recent recipient of the Gilman Award and is the first student to hold the internship role. She hosts regular walk-in hours at the Global Center and virtually for students who wish to learn more about Gilman or who would like feedback on their essays.

Currently in development as part of the Campus Association is a workshop created in collaboration with the Office of Competitive Scholarships (ONCS) about how to fund grad school abroad. Both Gilman alumni and other study abroad alumni will be invited to learn about additional scholarship opportunities and how applications for competitive scholarships, such as Gilman, are good preparation for applying for other funding as well as grad school.  

ONCS and UA Study Abroad have also organized a workshop about fellowships, internships and careers in the Department of State. Hosted by Diplomat-in-Residence for the Southwest Region Antoinette Hurtado, this workshop appeals to students from a wide range of majors, and is of particular interest to Gilman Alumni, who benefit from noncompetitive hiring among federal jobs.  
More professional development courses will be offered in collaboration with Student Engagement & Career Development. These sessions will provide career readiness resources and teach students how to highlight their study abroad experiences on their resume, LinkedIn, cover letters, and in interviews. A photographer will also be on hand to take passport photos for outgoing study abroad students and LinkedIn profile headshots for student attendees.   

Ultimately, the Gilman Campus Association marks a significant milestone in the University’s commitment to fostering inclusive and accessible study abroad opportunities. By providing a supportive network for Gilman scholars, this initiative not only enhances their experience during their time abroad, but also empowers them to leverage their experiences for future academic and professional pursuits. Through these workshops and events, both Gilman alumni and applicants become equipped with the tools and knowledge to navigate scholarship applications, pursue graduate education abroad, and explore future career opportunities.

To date, the average Gilman award rate for the University of Arizona is closer to 35% compared to a national rate of 20%, with UArizona students receiving an average award of approximately $3,900. In 2023, University of Arizona students were awarded $119,000 in Gilman Scholarship funds, and to date, over 500 UArizona students have been awarded nearly $2 million in Gilman Scholarship funds to support study abroad experiences.

As an additional incentive, UA Study Abroad commits a $500 study abroad scholarship to all UArizona students who submit a Gilman application, regardless of whether they are selected to receive Gilman funding.  This award was created to embolden students to take the crucial first step of applying to study abroad, and the Gilman Application Award will be triggered when a student commits to a study abroad program and will be in the form of a stipend.

For more application information and requirements, please visit the Financial Information & Scholarship Eligibility page of the Study Abroad website.