Fourteen Lehigh University students have won prestigious Gilman Scholarships and will be studying abroad locations around the world

Liana Secondino has studied the French language for nearly a decade and has always longed to study in France, but never imagined it would be possible because of financial limitations.

Now, she’s taking French studies and journalism courses in Paris, where she’ll be spending the next four months thanks to a nationally competitive Gilman Scholarship she won with assistance from Lehigh University’s Office of Fellowship Advising and UN Programs.

“With the amazing help of the Gilman, the opportunities in Paris are endless and I feel so grateful for the liberty to learn more about myself and expand upon my skills in a different environment,” said Secondino, a third-year Lehigh student majoring in journalism, with minors in French and global studies. “It’s opened up many doors for me to expand upon my fluency in French and my writing as a journalist in a global context.”

Secondino is one of 14 Lehigh University students who have won prestigious Gilman Scholarships and will be on their way to study abroad locations around the world this winter, spring, and summer.

A Near Record Year

The students, each of whom were Pell Grant recipients, will be studying in a wide range of countries. In addition to Secondino, the Gilman winners include:

  • David Okeh (traveling to Belgium)
  • Ana Mendoza (UK)
  • Loreina Flores (South Korea)
  • Sarah Wilhelm, (Germany)
  • Sophia Barro (Netherlands)
  • Jeremy Baidoo (Germany)
  • Roman Mitchell (Germany)
  • Dina Gofman (Spain)
  • Charlotte Imperatore (Spain)
  • Gus Maass (Spain)
  • Richard Arnold (Germany)
  • Jackie Jiang (South Korea)
  • Gay Soe, Argentina (Spain and South Africa)

The students were awarded a combined total of $48,500. Over the history of Lehigh University’s efforts with the Gilman Scholarships, a total of 90 students have won a combined $352,000, according to Bill Hunter, Lehigh Director of Fellowship Advising and U.N. Programs.

This year marks one of the highest ever number of winners in a single round, Hunter said. The highest was 15 students in the spring of 2022, which was during a time when the U.S. State Department had additional rollover funding from the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The student wins this year are even more impressive because they came during a more financially restricted round,” Hunter said.

Opening Academic Doors

Liana Secondino standing in front of the Eiffel Tower in paris
Liana Secondino in Paris, where she is studying thanks to her Gilman Scholarship.

The Gilman Scholarships are a nationally-competitive program sponsored by the State Department, providing funds for students all over the country to apply for a credit-bearing study abroad program or internship.

Nationwide, about 30% of students who apply for Gilman Scholarships receive one, whereas at Lehigh, 44% of applicants have won, Hunter said. A single Gilman Scholarship amount can total up to $5,000. The average nationally is about $3,000, and the average for Lehigh University winners is about $3,500.

“Many of the students who apply for these scholarships never really dreamed of studying abroad because it was not financially possible,” Hunter said. “The Gilman is the bridge between the amount of money students have to pursue their dreams to study abroad, and the amount of money it’ll take to actually make it happen. It fills the gap.”

Lehigh’s winners are recipients of Pell Grants, which is money the government provides for students with exceptional financial need.

“In the study abroad office, we know there are many ways students will benefit from taking advantage of an international experience while at Lehigh,” said Katy Rene, Assistant Director of Study Abroad at Lehigh. “The Gilman Scholarship offers a wonderful opportunity to decrease barriers for students who may need additional financial support for their studies.”

A Strong Partnership

The Study Abroad and Office of Fellowship Advising (OFA) – both of which are part of Lehigh’s Office of International Affairs – works with the university’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity to identify students who could apply for Gilman Scholarships.

“Our strong collaboration with the Office of Fellowship Advising has been very effective in helping students earn competitive awards like the Gilman, and we are always proud of the students for their hard work in achieving success,” Rene said.

Hunter added, “The system we’ve developed through our partners over the past five years or so is now fluid and effective.”

OFA helps guide students through the application process and write the strongest application possible. Applicants must be an American citizen and a Pell Grant recipient, and must apply for a credit-bearing study abroad program or internship. Students from all backgrounds, majors, and colleges can apply. 

The Gilman Scholarship application period begins on Jan. 28, with the application deadline on March 7. Students who previously applied and did not win are eligible to apply again, Hunter said. Interested candidates should make an appointment with the Study Abroad Office as soon as possible.