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Clarkson administrator serving on international scholarship committee

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POTSDAM - When Barbara A. Brown, associate director of Clarkson University’s Career Center and International Study, pointed out that a student was ineligible for a certain program abroad because of its timeframe, she had no idea her helpfulness would lead to her being asked to serve on a scholarship panel - but she’s delighted that it did.

Late this spring, for the second year in a row, Brown flew to Houston and back in 24 hours to help select winners of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which offers grants for U.S. citizen, undergraduate students to study abroad and better prepare themselves for assuming significant roles in today’s increasingly global economy. That opportunity seems tailor-made for Clarkson-groomed leaders and citizens of the world.

“Clarkson has had winners of this scholarship in the past few years,” said Brown.

This Department of State scholarship program is administered by the Institute of International Education. Students must be eligible for the Pell Grant to apply, and preference is given to candidates who will diversify the student pool going abroad.

“Applications are pretty intensive,” said Brown. “They are looking for people who really want to extend the range of what is studied, where it is studied and in what language it’s studied.”

Accordingly, applicants get extra consideration if they study a foreign language deemed a critical need, such as Arabic, Farsi, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, or Korean. The experience abroad is intended to be new, challenging and mind-opening.

“The scholarship students are mini ambassadors. Their time abroad helps them embrace differences, broaden their minds, and appreciate nuances of thought,” said Brown.

When reviewing applications, she and a partner evaluate 70 applications and have to come to consensus on their ranking. The first 35 applicants get scholarships and the next five are alternates. The students write an essay about why they feel they deserve to win the scholarship, which can be as much as $5,000.

“I can feel the heart of the student through the application. The quality of the essay really makes a difference,” she said. “I’m very honored to have been chosen to be a reviewer. It’s exhausting, but I love it. I’m pleased they asked me back this year.”

The applications are “pretty awesome,” she affirmed. “They raise a feeling of trust that the world will be in good hands when we leave.”

In the past decade, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program has awarded nearly 10,000 scholarships to students from 950 institutions and from all 50 states. The program seeks applicants from diverse ethnic or non-traditional backgrounds. Students must be eligible for Pell grants, and it helps if they want to study science, technology, engineering or math because these majors traditionally don’t go abroad.

The program’s namesake was a member of the New York State Assembly from 1967 until 1972. He then was elected to Congress, where he represented New York’s 26th congressional district from 1973 to 2003. Gilman was a congressional delegate to the United Nations, serving under Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick in 1981. He is a recipient of the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award, a gold medal and certificate that represent the highest civilian honor bestowed by the State Department.

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