Pellissippi State Community College student Alex Huezo has joined fellow student Casey Sullivan as a recent recipient of the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
Huezo, who has attended Pellissippi State for a year, returned in June from a summer study abroad program during which he focused on biology in the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador. The travel opportunity was hosted by the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies, which resides on the Hardin Valley Campus.
The Pellissippi State students were two of only about 500 nationwide who were named recipients of the highly competitive scholarship this year.
Huezo chose the Galápagos trip from among 18 destinations specifically because of the General Biology I course offered for credit as part of the experience. Huezo plans to study nursing, and he recognized that the opportunity to take the class in a setting renowned for its biodiversity was a unique chance to learn biology principles.
The Galápagos Islands, located in South America off the west coast of Ecuador in the Pacific, helped inspire Charles Darwin and his theories of evolution in the 1830s.
“We saw in ‘real life’ the things we would have only read about in textbooks,” said Huezo. “In our lab work, we were able to observe finches, tortoises and other wildlife firsthand, and then we presented our reports from the analyses that we did while we were on the island.”
Now in its 10th year, the Gilman Scholarship Program has helped approximately 10,000 students from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico who might not otherwise be able to study abroad because of financial constraints. The program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute of International Education. It is known for its rigorous application standards.
Although he was aware at the outset that the Gilman Scholarship was highly competitive, Huezo nonetheless felt positive about his chances for success when he submitted his application. He credits not only his essay and proposed project but also his sheer determination to study abroad with his selection as one of this year’s scholars.
“At the end of my essay, I made it clear that I would find some way to pay for studying abroad this summer,” said Huezo. “I explained that I would appreciate any assistance, but I was determined to go even if I wasn’t selected for the scholarship.
“And now that I’ve had this experience, I definitely want to study abroad again next summer. I’d like to go to Iceland. It’s supposed to be a challenging program, but I’m ready.”
Huezo is one of more than 450 Tennessee students, faculty and administrators who participated in this summer’s TnCIS study abroad programs. TnCIS coordinates the opportunities as part of its mission of boosting international experience and culture in higher education across the state. A wide variety of study areas were offered this year, in locales ranging from Brazil and China to the Czech Republic and Ghana.