URI among top universities sending students abroad through Gilman Scholarship Program

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KINGSTON, R.I. – April 30, 2018 – University of Rhode Island student Kenny Cordoba-Llanos is spending his senior year in China in an intensive language-learning program at Beijing Union University. In addition to his classwork, he has attended numerous Chinese cultural events, played soccer with Chinese students, and even traveled to Inner Mongolia.

His experience was made possible by the Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship Program, a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which recently named URI a “top producing institution.” The University was recognized for its success in making international study and internships more accessible and inclusive for American students of all backgrounds through the Gilman Program.

“I wanted to get the most authentic experience possible while completing my undergraduate degree,” said Cordoba-Llanos, a resident of Providence studying global business and Chinese. “The Gilman Scholarship provided me a way to attain this experience, and that’s why I applied.”

URI was cited by the Gilman Scholarship Program not only as one of the top medium-sized colleges and universities producing Gilman Scholars, but also as a top university producing Gilman Scholars who study the STEM disciplines.

“Our institution prioritizes the Gilman Scholarship program, as it has proven to effectively promote our strategic objective of not only increasing the number of domestic students engaging in international educational experiences, but also diversifying the population of students who participate,” said Tom Hospod, assistant director of the URI Office of International Education. “Most importantly, the awards have made academic programs abroad more accessible to students that have traditionally been underrepresented, thereby significantly complementing our institutional efforts to do the same.”

Since the program’s inception in 2001, URI students have received more than 100 Gilman Scholarships totaling more than $400,000. Fourteen URI students were awarded the scholarship in the 2016-17 school year, and 17 traveled abroad as Gilman Scholarship recipients during the current school year.

“Making friends with other Beijing Union University students has been my favorite part of the program so far,” said Cordoba-Llanos. “Whether it be on the soccer field or in class, all of the Chinese students I have had the pleasure of meeting have been extremely friendly and patient with me. Even though I have been studying Chinese for three years now, the amount you learn by simply exchanging words with native speakers is truly astounding.”

URI senior Michael Grenier is having a similar experience, thanks to his Gilman Scholarship. He is studying philosophy at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.

“When not in classes, I spend my mornings and nights working on personal academic research,” said the North Kingstown native, who also serves as a staff sergeant in the Rhode Island National Guard and as a member of the 88th Army Band. “And in traditional Rhode Island fashion, the local coffee shops already know my name.”

A double major in music and philosophy, he said he has also enjoyed making use of the efficient transportation systems in the region, traveling by train, bus and ferry throughout Europe. “As a musician, I particularly enjoyed listening to a French-speaking, local jazz band in Brussels,” said Grenier, who works full-time to support himself while in school.

Cordoba-Llanos and Grenier plan to continue their academic studies abroad after graduating from URI this year, and both credit their Gilman Scholarship, in part, for inspiring those plans.

“The Gilman Scholarship is a nationally competitive award, and it serves as a major door opener to other great opportunities, especially other programs funded by the U.S. Department of State,” said Kathleen Maher, director of URI’s Office of National Fellowships & Academic Opportunities. “We have a student who just won a Fulbright who was a Gilman, and two other Gilman winners are on their way to medical school in the fall.”

For more information about the Gilman Scholarship Program visit www.gilmanscholarship.org.