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Three students earn Gilman Scholarships

July 31, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Three Western Michigan University students have won a total of $18,000 in scholarships to study foreign languages overseas during the 2009-10 academic year.

WMU seniors Sarah Daniels and William Spalla, and junior Tharyn Taylor were among 850 students selected from a nationwide pool of nearly 2,000 applicants to receive awards from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. Since its inception in 2001, more than 4,200 students have received the prestigious Gilman Scholarship, which provides up to $5,000 for American students to pursue overseas study for college credit.

The scholarship program helps diversify the kinds of students who study abroad and the countries and regions where they go. It is administered by the Institute of International Education and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Sara Daniels of Grand Rapids, Mich., received a $5,000 Gilman Scholarship. A senior majoring in global and international studies and minoring in French and Japanese, she is the daughter of John and Donna Daniels and graduated from Grand Rapids' City High School.

A member of the Lee Honors College, Daniels plans to study Japanese language and Japanese studies through WMU's exchange program at Daito Bunka University in Higashi Matsuyama, Japan. She hopes her time in Japan will provide inspiration for her honors college thesis as well as enhance her preparations to pursue a career in the field of international education.


William Spalla of Ridgeway, Iowa, received a $5,000 Gilman Scholarship plus $3,000 from the Gilman Critical Need Language Supplement program. A senior majoring in global and international studies, he is the son of Larry and Janis Spalla and graduated from Ridgeway's South Winneshiek High School.

Spala plans to study Chinese language at Beijing Language and Culture University in Beijing. His main goal for study abroad is to gain fluency in spoken Chinese, a feat that will greatly support his future career goal of entering the U.S. Foreign Service.


Tharyn Taylor of Mason, Mich., received a $5,000 Gilman Scholarship. A junior majoring in accounting and minoring in economics, he is the son of Mark and Julie Taylor, and graduated from Mason High School. Taylor also received a $1,000 award from the Grand Rapids-based World Trade Association, after placing first in the association's essay contest for business students, which required applicants to address "The Importance of World Trade on the Global Economy Today."

He plans to take business courses at Christ University in Bangalore, India, where he is currently studying alongside Indian students enrolled in WMU's Transnational Education Program with CU. During his year abroad, Taylor will continue his business studies while learning the Hindi language and local customs, traditions, ideas and morals from Bangaloreans.

Since 1997, WMU and CU have had a twinning arrangement in which more than 250 Indian students have completed the final two years of their business degrees at WMU. Taylor is the first WMU student to study at CU through the partnership.


Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation is a special experience for every student who participates, notes retired U.S. Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman of New York, who sponsored the legislation that created the scholarship program that now bears his name.

"(It) not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also adds an enriching social and cultural experience," he says. "It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community."

In addition, Institute of International Education President Allan Goodman says the returning students are better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.

"It is critical to the success of American diplomacy and business," Goodman says, "and the lasting ties that Americans make during their international studies are important to our country in times of conflict as well as times of peace."

Spalla, Daniels and Taylor were advised and supported in applying for the Gilman Scholarship by Gaby Peschiera-Carl, their WMU study abroad coordinator, and Brett Berquist, then executive director of international programs in the Haenicke Institute for Global Education.

Students receiving a federal Pell Grant from two- and four-year institutions are encouraged to visit www.iie.org/gilman and apply for the Gilman International Scholarship. Visit www.wmich.edu/studyabroad to learn more about WMU's study abroad offerings and scholarships.


Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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