Gilman Winners Head Overseas

The large number of study abroad scholarship winners puts USF “in a different league.”


USF Provost Ralph Wilcox is joined by scholarship winners Trina Halfhide, left, Jean Weatherwax and Anne Pfister. 

Photo: Aimee Blodgett | USF News


By Kevin Burke

Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (June 4, 2012) — Only five other universities in America are sending more Gilman Scholars abroad this summer than the University of South Florida, another sign — atop its recent designation as a Top 50 research university by the National Science Foundation — of USF’s continuing rise in academic reputation.


With 10 Gilman Scholars headed abroad for six-week programs this summer, USF trails only the University of California Berkeley and Texas A&M, with 14 each, and the University of Texas-Austin, University of Arizona and Emory University, each with a dozen, for the prized scholarships intended to better prepare U.S. students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world.


The average award to the USF cohort, however, was second among the six schools at $3,800 of the maximum $5,000. Four USF students also completed Gilman trips abroad during spring semester, and four more were selected for the coming fall.


“We are now playing in a different league,” said Stuart Silverman, dean of the Honors College, through which most, though not all, of USF’s scholarship and fellowship recipients pass — including the university’s first-ever Marshall Scholar, Jean Weatherwax, and inaugural Udall Scholarship winner Shaza Hussein. Both are among the largest group of scholarship and fellowship recipients in university history in 2011-12.


Sidebars: Record Year for Gilmans             

                  USF Office of National Scholarships a Busy Place


Established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000 and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program offers grants for U.S. undergraduate students to pursue academic studies abroad. Scholarships are awarded through a competitive selection process and aim to encourage students to choose non-traditional study abroad destinations.


In the past decade, the program has sent more than 10,000 American college students on summer study opportunities in 124 countries. Visa stamps in the passports of recent Gilman Scholars from USF include Bolivia, Chile, China, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, South Africa, and Thailand.


The Gilman experience frequently reflects other undergraduate success, observes Linda Lucas, director of the Office of National Scholarships, citing the example of Sarah Seabrook, a two-year Hollings Scholar at USF, who is using her Gilman opportunity to travel to Indonesia, where the Environmental Biology and Environmental Science and Policy double major will be engaged in deep sea exploration and diving six days a week. 


“I’ll be working as a research assistant, studying the effects that overfishing are having upon the coral reefs as well as studying marine mammal migratory paths and how all components of coral reef ecosystems interact with each other,” said Seabrook, who back on dry land and in her spare time also is vice president of Keep Our School Beautiful as well as director of university affairs for the Student Environmental Association (SEA). During spring 2012 she interned with the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission.


“The data we collect is published in academic journals and put into the reef check database that allows governments worldwide to make educated decisions regarding the protection of the marine environment.”


Seabrook will put her 2012 Gilman experience to good use next year, when she serves a summer internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), furthering her coral reef research in the waters off Hawaii or Puerto Rico.


Healthy coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and economically valuable ecosystems on earth, providing food for millions; protecting coastlines from storms and erosion; providing habitat, spawning and nursery grounds for economically important fish species; and creating jobs and income for local economies from fishing, recreation, and tourism.

Kevin Burke can be reached at 813-974-0192.