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9 UTK Students Awarded Nationally-Competitive Gilman Scholarship to Study Abroad

In the most recent award cycle, 9 UTK students were awarded a collective amount of $32,000 in scholarship funds to pursue global experiences through the U.S. Department of State’s nationally competitive Benjamin A Gilman International Scholarship program.

The Gilman Scholarship aims to broaden access to study abroad by providing scholarships to participate on long and short-term programs like those offered by the Programs Abroad Office within the Center for Global Engagement.

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (URF), a division of Student Success, and the Programs Abroad Office within the Center for Global Engagement work collaboratively to amplify funding opportunities and provide application assistance that allows Volunteers to engage globally and achieve academic, personal, and professional aspirations.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville recipients and their chosen abroad program locations include*:

* Note: Information obtained from

The following information includes only the recipients who consented to have their names and program details published online.

McKenzie Owen, Class of 2021

“Without the Gilman Scholarship, I would not have been able to afford studying abroad. I feel so fortunate and happy to have received this scholarship. This is an incredible opportunity and wouldn’t be possible without scholarships. Iceland is my number one country I [have wanted] to visit since elementary school. I am most looking forward to hiking, swimming, nature and wildlife.

Shoutout to Ryan Lee! My application was pretty good, but who knows if I would have received the scholarship if he didn’t suggest changes to my essays.”

Daniel Peoples, Class of 2026

“Receiving this award had been a huge impact on my decision to go abroad and it has been nothing but a blessing for me and my family.

Before coming to UT, I never had any plans on going abroad, as I have always thought that I would be too expensive, so it was never a priority for me until now. We had no financial aid going into the cost of the program until Gilman and my dreams of traveling to a different continent for the first time are coming true! I feel amazing! I remember getting my…email; waiting for what felt like hours to open it. When I finally did, I jumped out of my chair, screaming and dancing and pumping my fist of joy. I couldn’t believe it. I knew how hard it felt applying for the program and I felt like all of that hard work was finally paying off. It was a great feeling that I will always remember.

The main two things that I was looking for within my study abroad/internship program was the cost & if a city fit my major or not. I was really attracted to Madrid specifically because of their booming Business and Finance culture, so I saw it as a great opportunity to get my first internship experience internationally while building my resume skills. Right now, I’m just doing all the research I can and amping myself up for it. I think that even with the research, I am still nervous to take apart of this new journey this far away from home, but something that I would advise other students to do is to accept and take on the challenge/journey. It builds character and will mold you into a better, more adapt person to change. That’s what I’m hoping this study abroad program [will] give me.”

Ryan Herzog, Class of 2025

  • Junior from Kingsport, Tennessee
  • Double-major in Neuroscience and Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB); Minor in Philosophy
  • UTK Neuroscience in the UK | Summer 2024

“Going abroad has been something I have wanted to do since I came to UT, and now I actually have the opportunity to do so.

I learned about the Gilman scholarship through my academic advisor Ashleigh Powers! I went to all of the workshops provided to UTK students through the Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and would not have been able to achieve such a milestone without them. I am extremely grateful to Ahdya Attea and Ryan Lee over at the Undergraduate Research and Fellowships department for helping me throughout this process.

After receiving the Gilman, my nerves about affording to study abroad have been calmed. With this award, I can take every opportunity to broaden my perspective and enjoy the trip. I will be able to take the proper time to make this trip worthwhile for both my career and personal development. I chose the UTK Neuroscience in the UK trip because I love learning about neuroscience. The concepts that we will be covering are multisensory perception and the neurobiology of stress. I also am excited to go and learn about the culture in the UK.”

Jerry Custalow, Class of 2025

  • Junior from Philadelphia, Tennessee
  • Major in Language and World Business: International Business with the Japanese Language; Minor in Sociology
  • Kansai Gaidai University | Academic Year 2024-25

“I learned about the Benjamin A Gilman Scholarship from an email. I definitely want to thank the team at the Undergraduate Research and Fellowship office. They gave me really helpful advice and challenged me on what I wanted to do with my future, long-term and short.

While I am abroad, I plan to use the UTK Language Discord server as a means to get more people interested in studying abroad. Every month I will host a hour-long voice call. The conversations will be about experiences, recommendations, advice, and other topics. After I come back, I will give a presentation to interested groups about my experience in Japan. I am looking for a life changing experience. One that will help me grow in understanding and skill. Most importantly, I want to overcome my fears.

I have never been to another country before. I have no idea what to expect [and] I am nervous about everything. This is a completely new experience for me. I know that if I remain calm and collected, I can push through any obstacle in my way.”

Zaria Kendall, Class of 2025

“Without the Gilman scholarship, I wouldn’t have the means to study abroad. I couldn’t be happier to be a Gilman Scholar!

I learned about the Gilman scholarship during my orientation for work. I am a DRA and the URF office mentioned study abroad and the Gilman scholarship during that first meeting. The process was very simple thanks to Ryan Lee, Ahdyah Attea, and Laura De Furio. They helped with any questions I had throughout the process. They were also very encouraging and helped me believe I could receive this award. Attending the workshops helped me to get my application submitted on time. 

[The IES Abroad Vienna – Psychology program appealed to me because] I was interested in learning more about the history of psychology. I’m excited to meet new people from different backgrounds and broaden my understanding of foreign cultures.” 

S. Sunshine Cooper, Class of 2025

“I learned about the scholarship on the study abroad scholarship page. I participated in the Gilman workshop and spent a month attending workshops and creating three essays for the scholarship.

Receiving the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship helped me fully fund my program along with the Mossman and another scholarship. I’m very happy and thankful for the opportunity to be able to study abroad for a program that is service/volunteer-based learning. [UTK Understanding Culture Through Service Learning in France program is] a Summer I term which I wanted as I didn’t want to study abroad for a long duration as my first time abroad. It is also a faculty-led program so I feel more comfortable traveling with other UT students. I am most looking forward to experiencing the differences between French culture and American culture.”

More about the Gilman

The October 2024 Deadline application will open in mid-August 2024 for applicants whose in-person programs or internships start between December 1, 2024, to October 31, 2025. This cycle encompasses Winter or January term 2025, Spring 2025, Maymester 2025, Summer 2025, Fall 2025, and academic year 2025-2026 programs. The application deadline is Thursday, October 10, 2024, at 11:59pm Pacific Time. To learn more about the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship or the Gilman-McCain Scholarship, visit

To explore fellowship opportunities or for support applying to nationally competitive awards, such as the Gilman Scholarship, visit or complete the Gilman Interest Form.

More about Programs Abroad

Programs Abroad is one of seven units within the Center for Global Engagement at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. To explore undergraduate opportunities to go abroad, visit or contact the office at 865-974-3177 |