KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dennis Schneider, a senior at Western Michigan University, has packed a lot into his 21 years.
The Milford native has taken advantage of co-op opportunities at Detroit-based American Axle and participated in a five-day backpacking trip in Cuba as well as a WMU faculty-led engineering in China experience. He's also operated a painting company during the summer, run a half marathon, completed a triathlon, and founded a college council of the Knights of Columbus at the University.
Now, the adventurous industrial and entrepreneurial engineering student has a new achievement to add to the list.
Schneider is among about 1,000 of the nation's undergraduates to be awarded a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study abroad this fall semester. The highly competitive Gilman Scholarship is part of a larger government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and interning abroad, helping them gain skills critical to national security and prosperity.
Schneider left for the Netherlands Aug. 28 to study at the Hogeschool Utrecht University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht. He'll be pursuing a minor in international business, which he wants to pair with his engineering degree in hopes of ultimately working on an international level.
"I really want to become genuinely comfortable living abroad," Schneider says. "I want to make the Netherlands home for the next six months, and travel to other countries and experience multiple cultures while I'm there."
Schneider, who has his sights set on visiting Spain, Eastern Europe and possibly Russia, participates in WMU's Seita Scholars program. It's the nation's largest and most comprehensive collegiate program for former foster-care youth, providing such resources as campus coaches, mentors and year-round housing.
Schneider credits the program and WMU faculty for providing the support necessary for him to become more confident and successful. In fact, he says he decided to attend WMU because of the Seita Scholars program.
"The program empowers individuals like me to continue their education and thrive. I don't know if I would be where I am without it—or even on my way to study in Europe now," Schneider says. "Dr. Steven Butt has been there for me since day one, and Dr. Bob White has been incredible—very challenging in class—and has inspired me to get an international education."
Now an upperclassman, he encourages WMU's incoming freshmen to be humble from the start of their academic careers and seek guidance from multiple sources.
"Even though it may be hard, don't take advice from other 18-year-olds without getting a second opinion," Schneider says. "Take advice from your professors, who are going to motivate you to do your best in their classes. Try to stay levelheaded. Be active. And bike the Kal-Haven Trail to South Haven at least once."
Gilman at WMU
Applying for a Gilman Scholarship is a competitive process that requires some advising. Dr. Michelle Metro-Roland, WMU director of faculty and global program development, serves as the University's advisor for the Gilman International Scholarship Program and most other federal study abroad scholarship programs.
"The Gilman Scholarship is for students who never thought that studying abroad was within their reach," Metro-Roland says.
Those interested in applying for the scholarship must be federal Pell Grant recipients and should make contacting her their first step. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about how the Gilman International Scholarship can be a bridge to the world, visit wmich.edu/studyabroad/gilman. To learn about WMU's study abroad programs and services, visit wmich.edu/studyabroad or call (269) 387-5890.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.