Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. It exposes American students to different cultures, different ways of life, different ways of thinking, and a variety of perspectives. Studying abroad cultivates a global perspective – and it shows the world who we are as a people. Our students are citizen diplomats. They form people-to-people relationships that underpin the country-to-country relationships we need to find mutually beneficial solutions to global problems.
We need Americans from all walks of life to study overseas, share their experiences with their communities, and contribute to a U.S. foreign policy that is relevant to all Americans. To achieve this mission, we need to leverage all our nation’s talent – especially students from historically underserved communities, from families where they are the first to attend college, and from rural environments that have not had the same access to academic exchange programs as other Americans.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affair updated its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Statement in September to articulate our commitment to the values that underpin our nation. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, “Diversity and inclusion make our diplomatic team stronger, smarter, more creative, more innovative…because we’re operating in a diverse world, and America’s diversity is a source of strength that few countries can match.”
The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program is one of our key programs in advancing this goal. Since 2001, the Gilman Program has helped more than 36,000 U.S. students study or intern overseas. Seventy percent of recipients are racial or ethnic minorities, sixty percent are from rural or small towns in the United States, and over half are first-generation college students. Through this scholarship, we are committed to providing outstanding students an opportunity they might not otherwise have to gain the skills they need for their careers and to contribute to our nation’s prosperity.
On October 7 in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to congratulate Gilman Top Producers for their efforts to produce the highest number of participants on their campuses for academic year 2020-2021: Mercer College, Wright State University, University of California-Berkeley, and Skyline College. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, these universities persevered and reached the students who needed them the most. Their efforts, along with the support of the Gilman Program, enabled more than 800 U.S. students from 48 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico to study or intern abroad in over 77 locations around the world.
In addition to the Gilman Top Producers, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recognized 19 higher education institutions as Fulbright Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Institutional Leaders for 2022. Through this unique initiative, the U.S. Department of State is partnering with HBCUs to increase their engagement with the Fulbright Program to increase access to United States’ flagship international exchange program for their students, faculty, and staff. We also recently recognized 43 Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) as 2022 Fulbright HSI Leaders for their noteworthy engagement with the Fulbright Program during the 2021-2022 academic year. This fall, Secretary Blinken signed a renewed memorandum of understanding with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) to further encourage international exchange opportunities for students and scholars, promote State Department internships and career employment opportunities, and further joint interests in the Western Hemisphere.
These programs and initiatives represent a handful of the ways the State Department is working to increase the number and diversity of U.S. students who study overseas. I am proud of our efforts to contribute to our nation’s shared, collective, and future prosperity.
About the Author: Ethan Rosenzweig is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Ethan joins the Department from Atlanta, GA, where he worked at Emory University’s School of Law as Associate Dean overseeing enrollment management and student services including international recruiting and engagement activities.