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100 Percent Success Rate: Five UofSC Undergraduates Earn Gilman Scholarships


International travel may not have been front and center in the minds of many this year, but that has not been the case for the five University of South Carolina students named Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program Scholars for Fall 2020. National Fellowships and Scholar Programs are pleased to announce that all five applicants from UofSC have earned full awards in the Fall 2020 application cycle—a 100% success rate! Join us in congratulating our recipients: Felicia McGill, Hannah Gardner, Joy Bernal, Stella Strength, and Romina Pinto.

Named after the late congressman Benjamin A. Gilman, the Gilman Scholarship Program has awarded 31,000 scholarships to students participating in study abroad programs and internships around the world. The Gilman Scholarship broadens the student population that studies and interns abroad by supporting undergraduates who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints. The program aims to encourage students to study and intern in a diverse array of countries and world regions.

Though the global pandemic has slowed international travel and presented unprecedented challenges at nearly every turn, our recipients were not daunted by the arduous task of making progress towards their international journeys. Their hard work, persistence, and perseverance has paid off, and undoubtedly will continue to as they solidify and coordinate their Gilman Scholarship-supported travel plans. Keeping all safety guidelines in mind, this spring, UofSC will allow students to travel and study abroad to countries that will be accepting Americans, though the Gilman Scholarship stipulates that recipients travel only to countries designated as Level 1 or 2 by the U.S. State Department. These designations have been severely impacted by COVID-19, and while restrictions and the possibility for changes in COVID-19 risk assessment over the coming months make planning trips abroad difficult, our scholars continue to remain resilient and positive.

The University of South Carolina’s Fall 2020 Gilman Scholars will without a doubt face more challenges as they gear up to travel abroad, but as proud Gamecocks, we can be sure that they will continue to meet these challenges head-on and find innovative, exciting solutions.

Education Abroad Advisor and Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, Anuja Parikh, serves as the Study Abroad Certifying Advisor for Gilman applicants on UofSC’s campus. When asked to comment on this cycle’s group of Gilman recipients, Parikh stated that “despite the uncertainties that go along with planning for study abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the stress associated with a virtual semester, these Scholars found a way to stay focused on their international education goals and can now study abroad with fewer financial pressures. I am impressed by their hard work and am excited to see where their education abroad journey takes them!”

The Education Abroad Office and National Fellowships & Scholar Programs work together to provide support and application resources for Gilman applicants. For more information about the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship or other national competitions, contact National Fellowships & Scholar Programs at 777-0958, or visit us online at


Felicia McGill is a junior double majoring in Mathematics and Spanish. Felica is a Capstone Scholar and member of the Honors College who has done research on Autism in the UofSC Neurodevelopmental Disorders Lab. Felicia also serves as a Supplemental Instructor for MATH 141and recently studied abroad at the University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras. Felicia’s career plans include teaching math abroad through the Peace Corps and earning a PhD in Neuroscience. Felicia plans on studying in Japan.

Hannah Gardner is a sophomore studying Integrated Information Technology with minors in Japanese and International Studies. Hannah is the treasurer for the Maxcy-Thornwell Residence Hall Association and a member of the Carolina Global Scholars; they also serve as an officer for the UofSC Association of IT Professionals Student Chapter. Hannah received the 2020 Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Studies in Japanese as well as the 2020-2021 University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing Scholarship. Hannah hopes to work in the IT field, preferably with a company that has ties with both the US and Japan, where she plans to study abroad.

Joy Bernal is a sophomore in the Honors College double majoring in Chemistry and Criminal Justice with a minor in Spanish. She is also the recipient of the Fall 2020 Fund for Education Abroad Scholarship and plans to work as a trauma surgeon after graduation and eventually would like to work with Doctors Without Borders. Joy will study abroad in Spain.

Stella Strength is a sophomore studying International Business and Economics with a minor in Spanish. Stella is a member of the Honors College and is a McNair Scholar. She is very active on campus, serving as an Honors Ambassador, Honors College Peer Mentor, and Top Scholar Peer Leader; Stella is also a founding executive leadership member and Vice President of Human Resources for Global Business Brigades, a group planning an economic development and consulting service trip to Panama this coming May. Stella will be taking part in the SC Semester Program this Spring, serving as an intern with the upcoming South Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee, and hopes to continue her work in international economic development when she completes her studies at UofSC. Stella plans to study in Cadiz, Spain.

Romina Pinto is a junior majoring in International Studies with a minor in Linguistics. Pursuing her undergraduate degree after raising her children, Romina currently works with Hispanic families who need help accessing information and resources that would remain inaccessible to them otherwise due to language barriers. Romina has plans to expand this work with the help of other volunteers in order to aid more families in the Hispanic community. After graduation, Romina aspires to one day work with international organizations that help local disadvantaged communities across the globe and hopes to complement her work with her interpretation and translation skills. Romina plans to study in the UK.

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