Elizabeth Mena
Elizabeth Mena  
Keilon Sabourin
Keilon Sabourin
Sierra Lamb
Sierra Lamb

By Abby Weingarten

With plans to study in Taiwan, Morocco, Nepal and Jordan when pandemic-related travel restrictions ease, three New College students have received Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to further their research. They are: Sierra Lamb, Elizabeth Mena and Keilon Sabourin.

“Studying abroad can be a transformative experience for students—not only providing them with the experience of new and different cultures, languages and ways of living in the world, but also changing the way they see themselves and their relationship to others,” said Duane H. Smith, Ph.D., assistant director of prestigious fellowships for New College’s Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO). “The Gilman plays an important role in extending such opportunities for learning, and personal and intellectual growth, to students who otherwise might not be able to study abroad.”

The U.S. Department of State’s Gilman Scholarship, founded in 2001, provides up to $5,000 to recipients of Pell Grants. The program encourages students to study languages, especially critical-need languages that are deemed important to national security. By catering to undergraduates with high financial need, the program has been successful in supporting students who have been historically underrepresented in education.

Since 2004, 29 New College students have received Gilman Scholarships to study in 18 different countries, including India, China, Russia, France, Japan, Canada and South Korea. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, international travel is still off limits until at least January 1, 2021, which has delayed the current students’ plans.

Lamb, a third-year student with an international and area studies area of concentration and a focus on global human rights, received the scholarship to study in the School for International Training (SIT)‘s International Honors Program for Human Rights: Movements, Power and Resistance. The multi-country program explores human rights movements in Nepal and Jordan—specifically how culture, identity, the political economy, and international law interact with the historical and social contexts of these movements.

“This experience will provide great insight, both for future thesis research as well as for opening new opportunities for me in the future—academically, career-wise, and simply finding new ways to help people,” Lamb said. “I am incredibly thankful to have been chosen as a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship. I cannot wait.”

Elizabeth Mena, a third-year international and area studies student with a focus on human rights in Latin America, earned a Gilman Scholarship to attend SIT’s Multiculturalism & Human Rights program in Morocco. The experience will help Mena develop her Arabic skills, and offer her the opportunity to intern with Forum Azzahrae (an initiative that focuses on strengthening the rights of Moroccan women—politically, socially, culturally and economically).

“I feel so excited, honored and blessed to have been able to receive the Gilman Scholarship. As a first-generation student, it was a very surprising and exciting moment for me and my family when I first got the news, all we could do was smile widely with happy tears,” Mena said. “I’m very excited to learn about people in Morocco and how cultural/human rights institutions play a role in advocating for and affirming their voices.”

Sabourin, a third-year Chinese language and culture student, secured a Gilman Scholarship to study in the American Councils Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program (TISLP)—something he also participated in during the summer of 2019. His goal is to become a Mandarin-English interpreter, and he is particularly interested in Taiwan’s relationship with mainland China. He chose to study in Taiwan because cross-strait relations are at the forefront of Taiwanese political and cultural conversations.

“Chinese classes are built on conversation practice and, because of this opportunity, I can reach a high enough level to have nuanced conversations in my second language,” Sabourin said. “Understanding another’s culture takes so much more than comparing holidays and history. It takes putting in the time to ask others their views on the economy, superstitions, political alignment, beliefs about gods, their education system and everything in-between.”

The next deadline for the Gilman Scholarship is in March for study in Summer/Fall 2021, the 2021-22 academic year, or Spring 2022.

For more information on scholarships and fellowship opportunities at New College, contact Duane Smith at 941 487-5002 or dusmith@ncf.edu

Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.


Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state's Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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