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The illustrious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program has honored five undergraduate students at Valparaiso University with awards to study abroad in spring 2014. Since 2009, 13 Valpo students have received this award.

“It’s a remarkable achievement for our students to be nationally recognized by the Benjamin A. Gilman International Program, which invested significant funding toward their education abroad,” said Julie Maddox, director of Study Abroad programs. “Five recipients is a high number in one application cycle and says a lot about the drive and ambition of our students.

“I’m thrilled for them, because I know this funding helps make possible a life-changing experience for their personal development, their academic pursuits, and their future careers.”

The five 2014 Gilman Scholarship recipients are Jon Bicanic, Tyler Clark, Alexander Grask, Carly Tolle, and Daniella Tripodis.

20131209 JLH Jon Bicanic-005

Jon Bicanic, a junior from Waukegan, Ill., majors in mechanical engineering and chemistry and will study at the Valpo Study Center in Cambridge, England. While abroad, Bicanic will have the opportunity to explore his passion for the humanities and take courses in art appreciation and theology, as well as a class titled “British vs. American Approaches to Social Welfare and Human Rights.” He plans to pursue a career in engineering with a focus on material research.

20131210 JLH Tyler Clark-006

Tyler Clark, a junior from Fort Wayne, Ind., majors in Spanish and French with a minor in music and will study in Zaragoza, Spain. He will take Spanish courses at the Centro de Español como Lengua Extranjera and a French class at the University of Zaragoza. In his spare time, Clark has begun teaching himself basic Japanese language skills. He plans to become an interpreter in several languages and knows his experience abroad will be invaluable in achieving this goal.

20131210 JLH Alexander Grask-004

Alexander Grask, a senior from Naperville, Ill., majors in international business with a minor in French and will study at the La Rochelle International Business School in France. Grask has studied French since seventh grade, and his longstanding interest in the French culture increased when his family hosted an exchange student from Marseille, France. As captain of the Valpo football team, Grask plans to create an educational video series that focuses on the cultural differences between France and the United States and the universal features of leadership.

20131212 JLH Carly Tolle-009

Carly Tolle, a junior from Wheaton, Ill., majors in biology with minors in chemistry and Spanish and is in Christ College — The Honors College. She will study at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, taking courses in biology, English, and film. She believes studying while immersed in a new culture will allow her to see familiar material in a different light and help her to grow as an individual. Upon graduation, Tolle plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in forensics.
20131211 JLH Daniella Tripodis-007

Daniella Tripodis, a junior art major, will study at the Valpo Study Center in Cambridge, England. During her semester abroad, Tripodis will take classes in English history and culture, art appreciation, and social welfare. Fluent in both Greek and English, Tripodis was born in England, moved to Greece at age 3, and relocated to the United States when she was in kindergarten. She looks forward to exploring the differences in social structure between the United Kingdom and the United States.

“I’m thankful to several faculty members who volunteered their time to encourage and mentor our students through the application process,” said Maddox. “Valparaiso University is very supportive of international education, and we want more students to take advantage of these learning opportunities.”

To help spread awareness of study-abroad opportunities, each participant is required to complete a follow-on service project aimed to promote international education, such as Grask’s video series about international views of leadership. Tripodis has proposed an art narrative project that will explore, through photography and sketches, sites throughout England that are often hidden from view and go unnoticed by tourists.

As someone who never thought he would be able to study abroad, Clark plans to use his experience to encourage students with disabilities to overcome their fears and achieve their goals. Clark was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was born three months premature, and although his doctors thought he would not be able to walk, he can now even walk short distances without crutches. He wants to show people — with and without disabilities — that anything is possible and that we are all equal, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or disability.

Sponsored by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Gilman Scholarship Program aims to diversify the students who study abroad and the countries and regions in which they study. While some students — such as engineering majors or student-athletes — may not believe study abroad fits into their rigorous schedule, programs like the Gilman Scholarship help make this possible.

“International education is one of the best tools for developing mutual understanding and building connections between people from different countries,” said Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education, which administers the Gilman Scholarship Program.

The program is administered by the Institute of International Education. Gilman Scholars have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages, and economies — better equipping them to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.