Summer 2011

Distinguished Gilman Scholars meet First Lady Michelle Obama and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock 

In the Spring semester, seven distinguished Gilman Scholars were invited to meet with First Lady Michelle Obama and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ann Stock, at Howard University to unveil the President’s “100,000 Strong Initiative.” This initiative aspires to increase the number and diversity of American students who study abroad in China. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program will undoubtedly play a role in the initiative; China is the top destination for Gilman Scholars and the Gilman Scholarship Program continues to diversify the kinds of students that study abroad and the regions where they go.

Gilman Scholars meet with First Lady Michelle Obama and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ann Stock, at Howard University (Gilman Scholar David Marzban left of the First Lady and Gilman Scholar Valery Lavigne second to the right of the First Lady).

At the event, Mrs. Obama emphasized how study abroad is an integral part of making America successful. Through study abroad, students build mutual understanding between countries and learn about foreign affairs firsthand. The First Lady pointed out how study abroad teaches students how to cooperate “by taking the time to get past the stereotypes and misperceptions that too often divide us.” Mrs. Obama also remarked that, “America has no better ambassador to offer the world than our young people.”

Two of the Gilman Scholars, David Marzban and Valery Lavigne, were chosen to participate on a panel with Assistant Secretary Stock. David, a senior from Pepperdine University, received a Gilman Scholarship to strengthen his Mandarin speaking abilities and study modern Chinese society at Fu-don University in Shanghai. During his discussion with Assistant Secretary Stock, David relayed how encouraging the Chinese people were during his struggles to learn the language. Even when he had difficulties with pronunciation, the people would urge him to keep trying and say “you speak well, you speak well.” At the end of the program, He was chosen as the representative speaker to address government officials from the Chinese Ministry of Education—opening up the event in fluent Mandarin. David also emphasized the connection between friendships and cross-cultural development. Close interactions, such as singing “California Dreaming,” with a peer he met at a restaurant, symbolized the unspoken similarities in all individuals across cultures. By forming close relationships in his host culture, David was able to respectfully share his viewpoints and listen to the viewpoints of his Chinese counterparts. Ultimately, he returned with a better understanding of the intricacies of modern Chinese culture.


Valery, a senior anthropology major at the College of New Jersey, became fascinated with China after taking online Mandarin courses in high-school. As a Gilman Scholar, Valery studied at Peking University in Beijing. Valery spoke about her financial obstacles as a college student during her discussion with Ann Stock. At first, she did not believe that it would be possible for her to study abroad. However, after hearing a classmate who recently returned from studying abroad speak about his experience at Oxford, Valery decided to pursue her goal by applying to the Gilman Scholarship Program. During the conversation, Valery disclosed that “it wasn’t until I studied abroad in China that I realized that I am not just an American citizen but I am a citizen of the world.” Valery is plans to return to China after she graduates.


After the panel discussion at Howard University, the Gilman Scholars were accompanied by U.S. Department of State and the Institute of International Education staff to various high schools in the D.C. area to talk to students about their experiences and the benefits of study abroad. The Gilman students expressed that this outreach was a wonderful end to a remarkable experience. These Gilman Scholars were educating the next generation of students that it is possible and necessary to study abroad.

Summer and Fall 2011 Application Cycle Concluded – Spring 2012 Soon to Open!

The Gilman International Scholarship Program concluded the application cycle for eligible students studying abroad during the Summer and Fall 2011 semesters. This cycle’s applications are once again of record numbers. We thank the Gilman Scholarship alumni and advisors for continuous efforts promoting the scholarship to students on your campus.

The next application cycle will be for eligible students studying abroad during Spring 2012, which will open in August 2011 with a deadline of October 4, 2011.  Even though as a recipient of the Gilman Program you are not eligible to apply again to receive a Gilman Scholarship, please share this information with your friends, peers, classmates, or during your Follow-on Service Project presentations.  You can also inform your audience that approximately 2,300 scholarships are being offered this academic year, so it's never been a better time to apply for a Gilman Scholarship to study abroad!

Reminder for Recent Returnees

Welcome back to the Gilman Scholars who have recently returned from their time abroad. We hope you had an amazing experience that was academically, professionally, and personally rewarding. There are just a few things to do to conclude your responsibilities to the Gilman Scholarship Program.   Further information and assistance with these responsibilities can be found on the Gilman website’s Resources for Alumni page at

- Update your contact information. Please email us at to update your contact information.

- Online Evaluations. Upon your return from abroad all Gilman Scholars are required to submit a Scholarship Recipient Evaluation. This document can be filled out online at the Gilman website's Resources for Alumni - Evaluation page at

- Follow-On Service Projects. If you have not already started your Follow-On Service Project, please remember you have 6 months from the date of your return to the U.S. to complete your project and submit your report to the Gilman Scholarship Program. For assistance or guidance, visit the Gilman website's Resources for Alumni - Follow-on Project page at or contact the Gilman Staff at

- Stay connected. The Gilman Scholarship Program has joined the social media movement in order to more actively engage with applicants, recipients, alumni, and advisors.  You can now follow us on Facebook (Gilman International Scholarship - Official Page), Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Alumni Update – Where Are They Now?

Samantha Stein, Lewis and Clark College
Morocco, Spring 2011

My experience as a Gilman scholar allowed me to grow as an anthropology student with a focus on the Middle East North Africa region in a way I simply could not in a U.S. classroom.  I was able to critically analyze the knowledge I accumulated in classes at my home institution through first-hand experiences abroad.  While studying in Morocco, I lived in a homestay in the old medina of Marrakesh. My host sister, a public school teacher, engaged in long discussions about the Moroccan education system, with the sounds of the protests in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere across the Arab world blaring from the television in the background.  This full cultural immersion allowed me to advance my dialectical Moroccan Arabic skills and learn about Moroccan history, society, and culture. 

My experiences as a Gilman Scholar in Morocco led me to apply for a 100 Projects for Peace grant to build a human rights cultural center called Tools for Tolerance, Morocco in the Hay Mohammadi district of Casablanca.  I was awarded the grant and am currently serving as the President and Founder of Tools for Tolerance, Morocco. In Morocco, I am leading a board of directors and a team of more than a dozen volunteers helping our organization provide resources ranging from language tutoring to human rights workshops. I was recently granted the Ibn Battuta Merit Scholarship for Peace and Diplomacy through the Qalam wa Lawh Center for Arabic Studies in Rabat to pursue Arabic Language study during Fall 2011. I will pursue my language study as I continue to administrate activities for Tools for Tolerance, Morocco.

This summer, I am also working full-time at the Museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca, the only museum of its kind in the Arab world.  I am working with a team of international researchers on archiving, cataloging, digitalizing, translating, and annotating a cache of documents from the Rabat Jewish community.  In order to make the archives more accessible to scholars from around the world, the Rabat Genizah Project is working to establish new protocols for the digitalization of humanities collections in multilingual environments.  This undertaking is the first of its kind, and has been met with great enthusiasm from international scholars, archivists, and more.

I was able to use the skills and knowledge I gained as a Gilman Scholar to design and implement a project for positive change in Morocco. I am reinvesting my own experience by creating more opportunities for cross-cultural exchange through volunteerism. 

For more information about Samantha’s organization, Tools for Tolerance, Morocco and how to get involved, or to donate, please visit: