Three Juniors Receive Celebrated Gilman Scholarship for International Study

Kloe Borja, Kycel Butters, and Jewel Smith, all members of Hollins’ class of 2021, have been awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for study abroad.

The three juniors will each receive scholarships in the amount of $4,500. Borja, a biology major, and Butters, who is majoring in psychology, will spend Spring Term 2020 in Italy. Smith, a double-major in sociology and Spanish, will study in Spain this spring.

“We have had a few students from Hollins receive Gilman awards over the years, but having three in one year earning such high award amounts illustrates the excellent quality of the students we have here,” said Ramona Kirsch, Hollins’ director of international programs.

The Gilman Scholarship Program supports students who have been historically underrepresented in education abroad, including but not limited to first-generation college students, students in STEM fields, ethnic minority students, and students with disabilities. Since its inception in 2001, the program boasts 31,000 alumni representing approximately 1,300 U.S. institutions who have studied in over 150 countries.

Award recipients are chosen by a competitive selection process and must use the award to defray eligible study or intern abroad costs.

The Gilman Scholarship is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which fosters mutual understanding between the United States and other countries to promote good relations.


Inspired by Mom and Supported by the Cooke Foundation, Summer Allison ’23 Begins Her Hollins Adventure

When Summer Allison ’23 reflects upon the two biggest influences in her life thus far, the contrast could not be starker: The single parent who raised her in a small, impoverished town in southeast central Texas, and the broadcasting and professional sports mogul who owned the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Redskins.

Yet, the personal journey that ultimately brought Allison to Hollins University would not have been possible without the mom who “invested the idea in me that education is by far the most important thing to achieve,” and the organization established by businessman Jack Kent Cooke that is devoting millions of dollars “to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need.”

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has been a part of Allison’s story from an early age. “My mother had me while she was in high school and she worked really hard to support us (Allison also has a younger brother),” she recalls. “She decided to go back to college because it wasn’t economically feasible for her to not have a degree.”

Allison’s mom enrolled at a local community college, and it was there that she found out about the Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program, a highly competitive initiative that provides up to $40,000 a year for a four-year, undergraduate education as well as funding for graduate school. Her economic situation and academic achievement earned her an award, and she subsequently transferred to nearby Texas A&M University to study political science.

Even with the generous educational stipend, Allison’s mom had to work two or three part-time jobs in order to make ends meet at home. “For years and years she would work as newspaper carrier during the early morning hours and as a crossing guard during the day. I practically grew up in my mom’s car – we would head out at 3 a.m., come home at 6, and she’d get us ready for school and then go to school herself.”

But Allison says her mom never wavered from her commitment. She was so impressed with the financial support and personal encouragement she received from the Cooke Foundation that she convinced Allison to apply to the organization’s Young Scholars Program when she became eligible at age 12.  A selective five-year, pre-college scholarship for high-performing seventh grade students with financial need (only 60 students are chosen from roughly 3,000 applicants each year), the Young Scholars Program provides academic and college advising, along with funds to participate in summer programs, internships, and other learning opportunities.

“The goal is to help you pursue interests that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to do, and get you curious about what’s happening beyond your immediate environment,” Allison explains. Fluent in Spanish, she spent summers during her middle and high school years immersed in language training in Mexico and at Concordia Language Villages in Minnesota. She also took a psychology course at Brown University that focused on the study of pseudo-science.

Allison’s experience with the Young Scholars Program led her to pursue acceptance into the Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program. As with her mother before her, she is receiving up to $40,000 a year for her undergraduate education; combined with an award she received from the Horatio Alger Association, she’ll graduate from Hollins debt-free. She is considering parlaying her lifelong passion for anthropology into completing a degree in sociology.

Another major benefit of her involvement with the Cooke Foundation, Allison says, is the opportunity to network with her fellow scholarship recipients. “We hang out a lot together and talk about what it means to have this kind of privilege. It makes you want to work hard to ensure that we produce a world where people not only have economic opportunity but also academic opportunity.

“I love my Cooke community. They are my rock and I am forever indebted to these people. Without them, I wouldn’t have a global perspective. If I ever get to the point in my career where I feel like I’m changing the world, then I have completed their mission for me: ‘Think big. Work hard. Achieve.’”

Allison is also quick to credit her mom, who is now a professor at Texas A&M and is working on her doctoral degree. “When I talk about my life experience, I can’t not talk about my mother. I’m actually standing on the shoulders of a great person.”


Small Communities, Big Opportunities: Kacie Shifflett ’22 Proves Scholarships Can Be Plentiful No Matter Where You Live

Like many schools, Rockbridge County High School in western Virginia hosts a special program each year to spotlight the scholarships won by college-bound students. As graduating senior Kacie Shifflett and her father were preparing to attend the 2018 event, he asked her, “How many do you think you’re going to get?” “Maybe two or three,” was Shifflett’s hope.

She never expected what happened that night. “It was crazy,” Shifflett, now a Hollins sophomore, recalls. “I’ll never forget it. They announced scholarship after scholarship and kept saying ‘Kacie Shifflett, Kacie Shifflett….’ My dad had tears in his eyes.”

All told, Shifflett learned that that she had won approximately 20 scholarships, ranging in value from $250 up to $5,000. Because of her hard work and perseverance, the first-generation student will graduate from Hollins debt-free with no loans to repay. She will continue to receive the vast majority of her scholarships all four years as long as she remains a student in good standing.

Shifflett credits her high school cross country coach and his wife, a Hollins alumna, with helping spark the momentum that led to her college career. “I didn’t think I would actually go to college until I joined the cross country team during my sophomore year. A lot of my teammates talked about going on to college after high school and I started thinking, ‘I could do that.’ I began taking Advanced Placement classes and dual enrollment courses and did pretty well. My coach really talked up Hollins, and it turned out a good friend of his wife’s worked to help kids get into college and find scholarships. She was a big factor, too,” especially in helping Shifflett identify and apply for an abundance of scholarships made possible by banks, restaurants, and other establishments in and around her hometown of Glasgow, a small community of about 1,100 residents. She also regularly checked a bulletin board near the entrance of her high school that featured information on local scholarships.

From November through April of her senior year, Shifflett estimates she applied for between 30 and 40 scholarships. “I was lucky in that I had a study hall that year and that became a class within itself. All I did was write essays.” She drew upon all aspects of her life, from her involvement in athletics and community service to her goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail and what she wanted to pursue in a career.

A local bank presented one of the most interesting scholarship application processes. “I had to leave school for the day and go to one of their branches to learn how a bank works. Then, I had to write an essay about how to invest and save money.”

How can current high school students duplicate Shifflett’s scholarship success? She offers these pointers:

  • Let your coaches and teachers know your aspirations. “Once I told my coach I wanted to go to college, he dedicated a lot to me. Then, my sophomore English teacher helped me by proofreading my essays.”
  • When it comes to scholarships, everything counts. “A lot of the scholarships I won were only $500 or $1000, but they do add up.”
  • Focus on resources within your community, even if you live in a small town. “People know you and there is a lot less competition than with scholarships that are offered on a national level. With some of the scholarships I received, I was the only person who applied.”
  • Don’t hesitate to share your story. “No matter where you come from, there’s always something special about you, where it’s a hardship you went through, something you did for your community, school, church, or family, participating in athletics or leading a club, or anything else you’re really passionate about.”

The encouragement Shifflett got from her cross country coach to attend Hollins turned out to be prescient, too. She is majoring in biology/pre-med (“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor”) and competing on the university’s cross country team.

“I fell in love with the campus and the atmosphere here. Everyone wants you to succeed.”



At Hollins and Beyond, Gates Millennium Scholars Program Benefits Senior

The Northern Mariana Islands is an American commonwealth, but its distant location in the western Pacific Ocean (nearly 6,000 miles, for example, from Los Angeles) is a big reason why few students there have the wherewithal to come to the U.S. to attend college. Saipan, the largest of the Marianas, has just one community college, and many residents feel they have little choice but to enter the workforce directly out of high school.

Epa Cabrera ’20, a double-major in business and economics at Hollins, was born and raised on Saipan and one of her high school teachers, Gerard Van Gils, was determined to change that mindset. As a result of going to college in Utah, Van Gils had experienced first-hand the advantages of higher education in the States. So, Cabrera recalls, “he brought together those of us who were among the 25 students with the highest GPAs at our school to take a college prep course. He showed us what it was like to attend college on the mainland and exposed us to all these scholarships.”

Because of the class, Cabrera discovered one of the nation’s largest and most ambitious scholarship initiatives. Funded with $1.6 billion from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program was established in 1999 to support African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American students with high academic and leadership potential who also have financial need.  Selecting 1,000 Scholars a year since its inception, the GMS program today funds over 20,000 students, more than half of whom are first-generation.

The GMS application process was rigorous. “In addition to five letters of recommendation, they required all applicants to write eight essays, each of which had to be at least 1,000 words in length,” Cabrera explains. “The essays took three months to finish.” Fortunately, she had great resources to draw upon, including another teacher who served as her mentor as well as her own compelling personal experiences. “I wrote about growing up and working on my family’s farm and how we sold vegetables every Saturday morning,” she says. “I also talked about the impact of the huge typhoon that struck Saipan in 2015 (Typhoon Soudelor, which caused extensive damage to the island and was one of Earth’s most powerful storms that year).”

Cabrera’s hard work paid off and she was one of six students from her school who were named Gates Millennium Scholars in 2016. “This was big news for Saipan,” she says, “only one other person from here had previously earned this honor.”

Throughout her college career at Hollins, Cabrera’s GMS scholarship has picked up financially where her Hollins grants and scholarships left off. In addition, the award has made real-world experiences outside the classroom possible, including participation in the Jamaica Cultural Immersion Program during spring break in 2018, and an opportunity to study abroad at Università degli Studi di Roma Tre in Rome, Italy, the following fall.  It has even provided funds for her to fly home during her summer breaks. During this, her senior year, the GMS program will enable Cabrera to work as a research assistant during the 2020 Short Term at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and take part once again in the Jamaica Cultural Immersion Program over spring break.

GMS also offers funding for up to 10 years for Scholars who wish to pursue a graduate degree in computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, or science. Cabrera plans to use this benefit to complete a Master’s degree and possibly a Ph.D. in public health in preparation for a career in global health economics.

“I am grateful that because of this program, I will be able to graduate from Hollins next spring debt-free and then continue my education without an economic burden,” she says.





Juniors Awarded Prestigious Gilman International Scholarship

Jasmine Carter ’19 and Alexus Smith ’19 have been named winners of the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which will enable them to study abroad this spring.

Both students are part of a group selected from a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants to receive this highly competitive award. Carter and Smith are heading to the United Kingdom for Spring Term and will be participating in the Hollins Abroad – London program. Smith will be blogging about her experience as a disabled traveler and interviewing disabled Londoners.

Jasmine Carter
Jasmine Carter ’19

The Gilman Scholarship Program encourages students to study and intern in a diverse array of countries and world regions. Since its inception in 2001 by the Institute of International Education, the program has been successful in supporting students who have been historically underrepresented in education abroad. The scholarship is named after the late congressman Benjamin A. Gilman from New York, who served in the House of Representatives for 30 years, chaired the House Foreign Relations Committee, and supported the establishment of the program by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000.

Alexus Smith '19
Alexus Smith ’19




“Study abroad is a special experience for every student who participates,” Gilman said. “Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also adds an enriching social and cultural experience. It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”

Kindra Wyatt ’14 Wins Prestigious Study Abroad Scholarship

wyattHollins University sophomore Kindra Wyatt has been named the winner of a $10,000 award from the Fund for Education Abroad’s Hiliary Echo Douglas Memorial Scholarship to study in India during the 2012-2013 academic year.

Wyatt, who resides in Salem, Virginia, is among just 11 students selected from a pool of 224 applicants representing over 190 U. S. colleges and universities to receive an award, and is the only student to receive $10,000, the highest award given. Scholarships are granted with a preference for underrepresented students in study abroad programs, including minorities, science and technology majors, community college students, and those choosing to study in non-traditional countries.

The scholarship was established in memory of Hiliary Echo Douglas, who graduated from the University of Evansville in 1999 and then traveled to Vietnam on a Fulbright Scholarship. She subsequently worked for various international cultural collaborations in Vietnam and later served there with CET Academic Programs, a study abroad organization that offers semester and summer programs in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Douglas died in 2008.

“This scholarship is given to a student who demonstrates Hiliary’s love of other cultures, her desire to give back to the world community, and her contagious love of life. Kindra fits this mold like a glove,” said Kirsten McKinney, Hollins’ director of international programs. “We are very proud to have assisted her in her quest to make her dream of studying in India come true.”

Founded in 2010 and based in Washington, D.C., the Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) seeks to increase opportunities for U.S. students to participate in high-quality, rigorous education abroad programs by reducing financial restrictions through the provision of grants and scholarships. FEA’s goals include assisting students in the acquisition of critical foreign language skills and cultivating U.S. students’ world awareness and appreciation of cultural differences through academic and experiential opportunities.

M.F.A. in Dance Student Wins AAUW Career Development Grant

lewisLeila Anglin Lewis, a student in Hollins University’s Master of Fine Arts program in dance, has been awarded a Career Development Grant by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

AAUW presents Career Development Grants annually as a way to help empower women in furthering their careers.

“We’re so proud to continue this wonderful legacy and to salute this new class of fellows and grantees,” said Gloria Blackwell, AAUW vice president of fellowships, grants, and global programs. “They now join the ranks of Nobel Prize winners, celebrated authors, social entrepreneurs, and prominent scholars who have used AAUW funding to advance equality for women and girls.”

Lewis, who resides in Greensboro, North Carolina, is an arts administrator, dance artist, and community advocate. Her vision is to create a life-affirming community wholeness center that houses an arts ecosystem and a family centered birthing center. In addition to pursuing her M.F.A. in dance at Hollins, Lewis is studying to become a certified professional midwife.

Lewis will use her AAUW Career Development Grant to research a paper focusing on the contextualization of the movement-based works of literary artists Zora Neale Hurston and Ntozake Shange. The grant will also support work on her thesis, which will draw parallels between the history of Samba, a Brazilian music and dance form, and the phases of womanhood according to the womb.

AAUW is one of the world’s leading supporters of graduate women’s education, having awarded nearly $100 million in fellowships, grants, and awards to more than 12,000 women from more than 130 countries since 1888.

Lindsey Narmour ’15 Earns Full Scholarship to Study at Oxford this Summer

narmourSince childhood, Lindsey Narmour ’15 has wanted to study at the oldest university in the English-speaking world. This June, the Hollins University English major and Ferrum, Virginia, resident is realizing that dream.

Named a British Universities Summer Scholar (BUSS) for 2014, Narmour has been awarded an all-expense-paid scholarship by the English-Speaking Union (ESU) to spend three weeks enrolled in two major seminars, Critical Reading and Shakespeare on Stage and Screen, at England’s University of Oxford, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning.

“I was familiar with the ESU and their goal of promoting the English language between cultures and in different countries,” Narmour explains. In December 2013, she learned of the BUSS scholarship program sponsored by the ESU’s Virginia chapter, which is open to college and university juniors in the commonwealth. She applied the following month “just to see what would happen.”

Based on her grade point average, a statement of purpose explaining why she wanted to study at Oxford and what she hoped to gain from her experience, and letters of reference attesting to her character and qualifications, Narmour was invited for an interview with the ESU chapter in Richmond. Shortly thereafter, she was offered the scholarship.

“To have this opportunity now while I’m an undergraduate is remarkable and I’m very thankful for it,” she says. “Getting immersion in a place where English literature had its genesis and to be with professors whose perspective might be different than what I’ve encountered in the U.S. would enable me to have a broader range of experience with the English language and a keener understanding of it.”

Narmour transferred to Hollins last fall from Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke. “I had been looking at Hollins since high school – the English program was a huge pull for me. I had talked to and corresponded with some of the professors beforehand about the sorts of things I would be able to do if I were to go to Hollins. I found that everything they said is quite true as far as the strength of the English department. The caliber of professors here is quite wonderful.”

One of those faculty members, Professor of English Marilyn Moriarty, is Narmour’s advisor and also helped her with the scholarship application.

“The English-Speaking Union has as its mission the celebration of English as a shared language to foster global understanding and goodwill by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students, educators, and members,” Moriarty says. “I’m delighted that Lindsey was selected by the committee in a competitive process that will enable her to attend summer school at Oxford. Engaged, self-motivated, and knowledgeable, she is the kind of student who makes the most of every educational opportunity.”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Narmour plans to pursue both a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English. Eventually, she would like to study full-time at Oxford or at least perform an independent study there.

“My aim right now is to become a professor and specialize in medieval literature. I’m looking into teaching in a different country at the university level – I’d love to live in England and possibly teach at Oxford. At the same time, I’d certainly be interested in teaching here in Virginia. If I could, I’d love to teach at Hollins or Virginia Western.”

In the meantime, Narmour is excited to make the most out of her time in Oxford this summer and is currently exploring opportunities to do research outside of the classroom and possibly travel in the area. “I’d really like to visit the Bodleian Library, which is England’s equivalent to the Library of Congress. I hope to pursue a senior thesis next year and I’d like to collect materials that will aid me later on. So, this scholarship has come at a very opportune time.”