Record number of UA Little Rock students receive study abroad Gilman Scholarships

The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship has been awarded to three University of Arkansas at Little Rock students who will study or work abroad this summer.

This is a record number of scholarship recipients for UA Little Rock in a single application cycle. The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, was the only other Arkansas college or university with Gilman Scholarship recipients.

UA Little Rock student winners include:

  • Madeline (Maddie) Burke of Little Rock will work in Spain. She is an international studies major with a minor in legal studies and will graduate in December.
  • Ryan Bourgoin of Sherwood, a sophomore political science major, will study in Cuba. He serves as editor of The Forum and will graduate in 2021.
  • Solomon Ra’phael Davis will study abroad in the Netherlands. He is a junior double majoring in philosophy and international studies. He will graduate in May 2020.

All three of this year’s recipients are Donaghey Scholars.

“This is the first time that UA Little Rock has had three Gilman winners in one term, which is amazing, considering the competitive nature of the scholarship,” said Emily Bell, Director of Study Abroad. “This summer cycle, there were 5,000 students who applied and only 1,000 were given scholarships, so that speaks to the quality of the scholarship essays these three students produced.”

Including this summer’s recipients, UA Little Rock has had 17 winners in the past five years who have received $61,000 in scholarship funding for study abroad programs.

Burke leaves for Spain on May 19 and will intern at Attittud, a business consultant firm, where she will assist in the management and organization of consulting projects. She will return July 27.

“This will be my first internship, so I want to use this opportunity to gain a better sense of what sort of career I want after graduation,” she said. “I also want to use this opportunity to network with other people around the world and further develop my professional skills.”

Burke also has intermediate Spanish-speaking skills and hopes to improve her skills while she is in Spain.

“I chose to intern abroad in Spain to learn more about the history and culture. Several people I know have studied abroad in Spain and told me about their experiences, so my decision was also slightly influenced by their stories,” she said.

Bourgoin leaves for Cuba on June 2 and returns July 20. He will take two courses – one in Latin American politics and another in Latin American social revolutions – at the Instituto de Filosofia in Havana.

“I wanted a study abroad experience that would be radically different from what I was used to at home, and given Cuba’s political situation and the nation’s prevailing values, I thought that this would be the best place to go,” Bourgoin said. “Also, as a student of political science, I figured that such an insular and idiosyncratic state would be the most interesting destination, especially since Cuba has only recently opened up relations with the U.S. and transitioned out of the Castro era. Also, I wanted to immerse myself in the Spanish language and decided that Cuba’s alienation from the English-speaking world would make it a good place to do this.”

Bourgoin will stay in Vedado, a student neighborhood in Havana’s business district. While he’s there, he plans to tour southern Cuba to visit historic sites such as Playa Girón (a major landing site for the Bay of Pigs Invasion) and the Terrazas, a nature reserve reserve and reclamation of nature.

“My main career interest is writing novels, essays, and short stories about philosophy and politics, so I think experience abroad is invaluable,” he said. “Receiving the Gilman award will open up new opportunities for experience abroad by connecting me to an extensive alumni network and making me more competitive for programs hosted by Fulbright and the Peace Corps, a factor that also might play into getting my work noticed.”

“Additionally, the Gilman award has helped make it possible for me to explore the unique political climate of an insular socialist nation and allow me to study at one of its institutions of learning,” he said. “Both of these are great opportunities to step outside the assumptions of the given place and time in which I happened to be born and broaden my perspective of the world. It’s not every day you get to go to Cuba, so I think the Gilman award will help me develop a unique voice and worldview.”

Davis leaves June 20 for a seven-week stay in the Netherlands where he will take classes in law and politics at Maastricht University.

“I wanted to spend time in the Netherlands to learn the language and learn about law and politics at the hub of international law,” he said. “This opportunity plays into my career path by making me a more competitive applicant for law school and Ph.D. in political science programs. It also helps prepare me to work in the internationally connected world that we live in. It will also connect me with diplomats that may do the kind of work I am interested in professionally.”

In addition to being a Donaghey Scholar, Davis is president of the the International Honor Society of Philosophy; president of UA Little Rock’s International Studies Association for Undergrads; and president of the Ethics Bowl Debate Team.

The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship is a congressionally funded program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. State Department. The award was named after the late congressman Benjamin A. Gilman, who served 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The scholarship’s mission is to broaden and diversify the student population that studies and interns abroad.

“I am very excited that the time and effort Maddie, Ra’phael, and Ryan dedicated to applying for the scholarship paid off,” Bell added. “They spent extensive time planning for their unique study abroad experiences, and I know with the help of the Gilman scholarship, their time abroad will be even more meaningful. I’m proud that these three will be representing our campus internationally, and we look forward to hearing about their experiences upon their return to campus in the fall.”

Photo top right: Maddie Burke, Ra’phael Davis, and Ryan Bourgoin received Gilman Scholarships to study or work abroad this summer. Photo by Benjamin Krain



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