Gilman Scholarship enables lucky UTRGV students to study abroad this summer | UTRGV Press Release 5/18

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UTRGV Gilman scholarship students and faculty came together in late April on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus to discuss their upcoming travel abroad and the procedures and needs for each trip. From left are Flor Saldivar, Dr. Robert Bradley, Dr. Mark Andersen, Arael Meza, Robert Gilbert, Alma De la Mora, Ping Xu, Ofelia Alonso, Oscar Trujillo, Arlet Villarreal, Jaqueline Becerra, Rebecca Bui and Martha Garcia. Not pictured are Ofelia Alonso, Eufemia Mata and Gus Resendez. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

By Cheryl Taylor

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – MAY 18, 2017 – Twelve UTRGV students have been awarded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships that will enable them to participate in various study programs around the world this summer.

The scholarships, issued by the U.S. Department of State, help students of limited means to study or intern abroad so they can gain skills that will further the United States’ economic competitiveness and/or enhance national security.

“This is the first time UTRGV students have taken advantage of the Gilman Scholarship Program,” said Alan Earhart, director of International Programs and Partnerships, a department in the Office of Global Engagement. “Of all the UT System schools, only UT Austin received more Gilman scholarships this year than UTRGV.”

The twelve scholarship recipients are from Brownsville, McAllen, Mission, Pharr, Plano, Rio Grande City, Weslaco and Mexico City. Their study abroad courses will take them to China, England, Ireland, Italy, Peru and Spain.

Biology major Oscar Trujillo, of McAllen, is enrolled in the philosophy of science course that is going to Dublin, Ireland, with Dr. Thomas Pearson, associate professor of philosophy. Trujillo is in the A PRIME TIME fast-track pre-med program, and has his sights set on becoming an ophthalmologist.

He believes this trip to Ireland will help him be more culturally aware and sensitive to people who are different from him.

“Most of my life, I have been a part of a predominantly Hispanic community, so it will be exciting to be in a completely new atmosphere,” he said.

Also in the Ireland philosophy course is another biology major and A PRIME TIME pre-med student, Martha Garcia, from Mission. An aspiring neurologist, Garcia said she “would love to work at NASA, studying the effects of microgravity on the human brain.”

Philosophy/psychology major Arlet Villarreal, from Rio Grande City, aspires to attend law school and become an attorney in criminal defense or civil rights.

“I selected Dr. Pearson’s Philosophy of Science class in Dublin not only because it can be applied toward my major, but also because I want to be exposed to new experiences and see wonders outside my comfort zone,” Villarreal said.

While Trujillo, Garcia and Villarreal fly over the Atlantic Ocean, two other biology majors and aspiring physicians, Jaqueline Becerra, from Mission, and Alma De la Mora, from Weslaco, will journey to the Southern Hemisphere to study in Peru. Also on that study abroad trip will be Ofelia Alonso, a history major from Brownsville.

Becerra, De la Mora and Alonso will spend six weeks at various locations in Peru with Dr. Robert Bradley, an associate professor in the UTRGV School of Art, and Dr. Mark Andersen, dean of the UTRGV Honors College. The professors are co-teaching two Honors College courses – Alpine Ecosystems of the Peruvian Andes, and Machu Picchu/Ausungate.

Not only will the group reach 17,000 feet above sea level as they participate in a five-day trek toward the 6,384-metre-high Ausungate, they also will set off on a four-day hike to Choquequierao, an Inca site billed as the new, but much more remote, Machu Picchu.

“I love adventure and this seemed like the perfect program for me,” said Alonso, who chose her history major as a step toward law school. “I am an art history minor and an Honors student, so the courses are very much in line with my degree plan and my interests.”

Two graphic design majors – Eufemia Mata, from Pharr, and Arael Meza, from Mexico City –will participate in the China experience taught by Robert Gilbert, professor in the School or Art, and Ping Xu, assistant professor in the School of Art.

While some of the trip involves travelling around China to visit important cities and sites, the students will make their home for part of the trip in a campus dormitory at Hengyang Normal University in Hunan Province.

Meza said he is accustomed to travelling and moving, having grown up in what he calls a “nomadic household” – his parents were itinerant pastors for the Methodist Church in Mexico. Meza will participate in the digital photography course directed by Xu.

“The capital city of Beijing, the countryside of Hunan Province and the impressive architecture of Shanghai – I am sure these will be nurturing places to learn and practice what Professor Xu teaches us,” Meza said.

Mata is taking the plunge and participating both in Xu’s photography class and Gilbert’s journal/visual communication class that encompasses writing, photography and drawing. Gilbert’s students will design a booklet using the computer lab at the university in China, and then print it when they return to UTRGV.

Mata expressed her appreciation to Gilbert and Xu for encouraging her and the others to apply for the Gilman Scholarship.

“They said, ‘It doesn’t hurt to try,’ so I did, with the help of Lizette Leal (international programs specialist for IPP),” Mata said. “She was with me every step of the way through the application process, and I greatly appreciate all her help. It didn’t hurt to try, and I’m so elated to have been selected.”



The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and internships are available during the spring, summer, fall or academic year term.

For more information on the Gilman Scholarship, contact Lizette Leal in the Office of International Programs and Partnerships at 956-665-3572 or email

UTRGV Senior Writer / 956-882-8787
UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications / 956-665-2742

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