image title

ASU sending 20 students abroad on prestigious Gilman scholarships

A record 20 Sun Devils win prestigious Gilman scholarships to study abroad.
May 19, 2017

Program funds international travel for first-generation, other underrepresented groups

Editor's note: This story originally reported 19 ASU students had won Gilman scholarships; one additional student was awarded a scholarship after this story was published.

Derek Miltimore will work with drones to excavate an archeological site in Macedonia this summer, while Cassie Roose will learn Arabic in Morocco as a way to help refugees.

They are two of the 20 Sun Devils who won a prestigious GilmanThe Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is named for the late congressman from New York, who served in the House of Representatives from 1983 to 2003 and chaired the House Foreign Relations Committee. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. scholarship to study abroad this summer — the most ever for Arizona State University. The nationwide Gilman scholarship funds international travel for young people who might not otherwise consider studying abroad — such as first-generation college students, those with disabilities and underrepresented ethnic and demographic groups. The program also sends scholars to more destinations outside Western Europe — the most popular study-abroad locale — than any other.

ASU’s Gilman scholars include a veteran and an online student, and the destinations include Africa, Asia and South America. The majority of these students are participating in programs coordinated through ASU's Study Abroad Office.

Brian Goehner is a program manager in ASU’s national scholarship office and specializes in working with students who apply for the Gilman. 

“This scholarship is attainable, and these are students who probably didn’t think they could ever go abroad,” Goehner said.

“A first-generation college student doesn’t have a role model in their family to help them navigate the university, much less study abroad. If they can get this opportunity, it changes them in terms of impact.”

Goehner said that some applicantsGilman applicants must be eligible to receive federally funded Pell Grants, which are awarded to students from low-income families. he has worked with have never traveled outside of Arizona.

“This is a chance for them to experience another culture and get skills like adaptability and thinking on their feet,” he said.

The Gilman program favors students from states that have lower rates of participation for study abroad, and that would include Arizona, where less than 0.65 percent of students enrolled in higher education studied abroad in 2015 compared with the national average of 1.5 percent. Besides ASU’s 20 Gilman scholars for this summer, there were 28 other Arizona-based winners, including students at the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and Mesa, Glendale, GateWay and South Mountain community colleges. Last summer, ASU sent 16 Gilman winners abroad.

In total, there are about 1,200 Gilman scholars from 354 American colleges and universities traveling this summer. The program reported that in 2016, 87 percent were the first in their family to study abroad, and that 71 percent of Gilmans studied outside Western Europe, compared with 47 percent of all participants in study abroad.

Cassie Roose will study Arabic in Morocco this summer. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

While the study-abroad programs must be academic, several ASU students also see them as a way to serve.

Roose, who is from Mesa, will be traveling to Morocco, where she will study Arabic. In the fall, she’ll leave on a Fulbright scholarship to teach English at Ghent University in Belgium.

“The purpose of applying for the Gilman was to gain language proficiency to carry out my Fulbright grant, where I want to implement a program to aid Syrian children who are in refugee centers,” said Roose, who in May received her degree in biological science and wants to be a neurosurgeon and possibly work for Doctors Without Borders.

Jasmine Finnell is an ASU Online senior majoring in global health and is traveling to India.

“I chose a program where I’m actually going to be doing AIDS prevention work,” she said.

“We’ll be teaching kids and people in the village about how to prevent HIV. I wanted something really impactful,” said Finnell, who is a nanny and started working weekends with a second family to save up for her trip before she found out she received the scholarship.

Brenton Berge, a veteran, will study Chinese in Taiwan this summer.

Brenton Berge, 26, is a veteran, having served six years in the Marine Corps with postings in Copenhagen, Shanghai and Istanbul.

“Despite loving the United States, I’ve always wanted to get out and see more of the world, but I think my military service definitely enlightened me on the daunting experience of travelling to countries with completely different cultures,” said Berge, who is a junior majoring in electrical engineering and minoring in physics and Chinese. He’ll be studying at National Taiwan University’s International Chinese Language Program in Taipei.

The Gilman program provides grants of up to $5,000.

Derek Miltimore will excavate an archeological site in Macedonia this summer.

Miltimore said that without the funding, he might have been able to pay for his program in Macedonia, “but I would have starved once I got there.”

"I could have paid for the ticket, but I would have shown up empty-handed for everything else,” he said.

Miltimore, an anthropology senior from Gilbert, will be working on the archeological excavation of a Roman palace, surveying the site using drone and laser technology and specializing in photogrammetry model-making.

Callan Gillette, a junior mechanical engineering major at ASU, took a big chance on his plans to study abroad. He was accepted into a program based at the University of Ghana, and the withdrawal date was before he found out whether he won a Gilman scholarship.

“If I hadn't gotten it, I would have had to take out a student loan to pay for the trip, so I'm incredibly grateful,” said Gillette, who’s from Chandler. He intentionally picked a program outside his major, so he is taking courses in politics, history and culture, after which he’ll intern at an engineering firm that focuses on agriculture in Africa.

“So I will have three weeks learning about Ghana and developing cross-cultural skills and then four weeks implementing those skills in a professional environment,” Gillette said.

Kyle Mox, director of the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU, said that while some of the very elite scholarships, such as the Rhodes and Marshall, have very low acceptance rates, about a third of applicants to Gilman win the award.

“This is one of those programs that has ASU written all over it because it’s about inclusion and global engagement — things ASU is really known for,” Mox said.

The Office of National Scholarships Advisement is housed in Barrett, the Honors College, although only eight of the 20 Gilman winners are in Barrett, and Goehner encourages all eligible students to apply.

Goehner said the office has stepped up its outreach and has been collaborating with ASU’s Study Abroad Office to get more applications. Unfortunately, only about a third of students who start the application process actually finish it.

“That’s a statistic we’re dying to change, so we’re targeting those students,” he said. “If we could get more of them to finish, I’m convinced that ASU would have more than (20) Gilmans.”

The Gilman doesn’t require letters of recommendation or interviews, but success depends heavily on the written statement of purpose. So ASU’s Office of National Scholarships Advisement started writing workshops for applicants, said Goehner, who served as a judge last year.

“I saw what Gilman is looking for, and that was a game-changer,” he said.

Besides Berge, Finnell, Gillette, Miltimore and Roose, the other ASU students who won Gilman scholarships, their majors and destinations are: Khushbu Ahir, global health, Guatemala; Glenn Bascon, molecular bioscience, Tanzania; Michael Corder, biology, Peru; Esteisy Gutierrez, community health, Peru; Kelsie Hammitt, health sciences, Tanzania; Joshua Hsu, biomedical engineering, Singapore; Breanna Jeter, global health, India; Nahti Keo, chemical engineering, Taiwan; Sophia Le, biochemistry, Nicaragua; Mulki Mehari, global health, Guatemala; Peter Ole-Sabay, global health, Tanzania; Thu-Phuong Nguyen, biochemistry, South Korea; Dominique Reichenbach, global studies, China; Tyler Robbins, global health, Guatemala; Hector Trujillo, biological sciences and global health, India.

Early applications for summer 2018 Gilman scholarships open in mid-August; find more information here. For students at a four-year institution like ASU, students must be either enrolled in or applying to a program at least four weeks long in a single country. The Study Abroad Office offers numerous programs throughout the year to meet with Gilman's eligibility criteria; visit the Study Abroad Office website to apply.

In addition, if students are not awarded the Gilman scholarship, they can still apply for funding through the Study Abroad Office. Similarly to the Gilman, the Study Abroad Travel Grant and the Diversity Scholarships are to encourage participation from students who may not have otherwise considered studying abroad.

Visit ASU’s Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU here

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


image title
ASU experts will bring a dose of real-life science to Phoenix Comicon event.
May 24, 2017

Professors, grad students to participate in panels, workshops at 'geek' event

Phoenix Comicon will celebrate all things geek this weekend, including science fiction, comic books, superheroes, cosplay and fantasy.

Several Arizona State University experts will be part of the four-day event, a pop-culture gathering that will be held at the Phoenix Convention Center on Thursday through Sunday.

Besides the celebrity autograph sessions, costume workshops and gaming seminars, there are several panel discussions that will explore the actual scientific facts — or myths — behind popular shows and movies, including “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who.”

Alyssa Henning, a doctoral student who is in the biological design program at ASU, will speak on three panels at Phoenix Comicon: “I Am The Knight: The Science of ‘Batman the Animated Series’ ” at 1:30 p.m. Friday; “It's Morphin' Time: The Science of Power Rangers” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday and “Bottling Fame and Brewing Glory: The Science of Potions in Harry Potter” at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

She answered some questions from ASU Now:

Question: How did you get involved in speaking on three Phoenix Comicon panels?

Answer: I just finished my first year in the biological design program. When I was interviewing in 2016, I heard that grad students can be part of Phoenix Comicon and I was super excited.

I got an e-mail from RealtimeSTEAMRealtimeSTEAM is a nonprofit science-education group co-founded by Brian Johnson, a doctoral student in the the Biodesign Institute at ASU., a nonprofit group that sets up all the Phoenix Comicon science panels. They surveyed us for ideas for panels, and then we got to sign up for our favorite ones.

I also was on a panel at Phoenix Comicon Fan FestFan Fest is a smaller event hosted by Phoenix Comicon in the fall. It is aimed primarily at families and children and also focuses more on costuming and comic books., a smaller event last October, and I really liked that.

Q: How will you prepare?

A: Harry Potter, Batman and the Power Rangers are all things I grew up with, but when I watched the shows, I was in elementary school so I don’t remember all the details. I’ll watch a few key episodes to familiarize myself with the content.

Alyssa Henning, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in biological design at ASU, is also interested in exploring the ethical and policy issues involved in the field. She'll speak on three panels at Phoenix Comicon this weekend. Photo by Pete Zrioka/ASU

Q: What kind of science will you talk about at Phoenix Comicon?

A: For Batman, I’ll talk about Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, both of whom are scientists. Harley Quinn was a psychiatrist, and Poison Ivy was a botanist.

The Power Rangers will be about the science of body mechanics. I play Japanese taiko drums, which are a very dynamic art form that involves using your body, similar to martial arts.  

The Harry Potter panel is the one where my specific field comes into play. My favorite potion is the “polyjuice potion.” It’s very significant in the story, where the main characters turn into other characters in the Harry Potter universe to accomplish specific tasks. Hermione actually failed at the polyjuice potion because she accidentally picked up a cat hair.

I was thinking about how she failed the first time because of a small detail. It took her some time to succeed. And it made me think about how in a science lab we get long, complicated protocols that maybe we’ve never done before. Then you mess up a few times and then you finally get it and then you streamline it and then you’re a pro at it. Which is basically the PhD process.

Q: Will you dress up?

A: Yes. I’m a big fan of thrift-store cosplay using things I already have in the closet. If I buy something, my rule for myself is I have to use it in real life. For the Batman panel, I’m going as Catwoman. Her costume design from “Batman the Animated Series” is all gray. I already have black cat ears. For the Power Rangers I’ll go as the 2017 Yellow Ranger, Trini, which is a yellow t-shirt with a graphic on it.

For Harry Potter, I’ll be a Ravenclaw student. I’ll turn my laser pointer into a wand.

Q: Do convention-goers appreciate the fact that real scientists are there?

A: Yes, at Fan Fest I got a lot of questions from audience members.

I was on two panels, "The Science of ‘Suicide Squad,’” where I dressed up like Katana, and "Gross Science for Kids,' where I talked about green food goo and astronaut food.

A lot of the kids said they wanted to be scientists, and it was fun to talk about what a science lab looks like.


Henning is among many ASU experts who will appear on Phoenix Comicon panels. Some others are:

• David A. Williams, an associate research professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration who studies volcanology and planetary geology: “Star Trek: TNG 30th Anniversary,” 6 p.m. Thursday; “’The Expanse’: When Science on TV is Done Right,” 7:30 p.m. Thursday; “Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1 50th Anniversary Retrospective,” 10:30 a.m. Saturday; “Star Trek: Discovery — The New Crew,” noon Sunday; “There and Back Again: What NASA Has Learned from Dawn and New Horizons,” 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

• Melissa Wilson-Sayres, an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences and a computational biologist who is an expert on sex-based biology: “No Controversy to Teach: The Science of Global Warming, Vaccines and Evolution,” 9 p.m. Friday; “IT'S ALIVE: The Science of Frankenstein,” 1:30 p.m. Saturday; “Building the Future: How to become a STEM professional,” noon Sunday.

•  Dani Kachorsky, a graduate student studying literacy and technology in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College: “Truth and Justice: How to inspire the next generation of heroes!” noon Thursday; “Identity & Social Issues: Using Comics & YAL to Discuss Tough Topics in English Language Arts,” 10:30 a.m. Friday; “The Limit is Imagination: How to teach technology in resource-limited settings,” noon Friday; “Minefield: How to teach controversial topics,” 3 p.m. Friday.

Find the complete Phoenix Comicon schedule here.


Top photo: Courtesy of Phoenix Comicon.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now