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National Fellowships and Scholar Programs

  • Hand holding up an American passport in front of a world map.

Six Gamecocks going global with the Gilman Scholarship

Dax Andrews, Bess Bridwell, Elliott Catoe-Griffis, Tristen Davis, Leah Pleskonko and Tamia Starks have earned the 2024 – 2025 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for study abroad. These six students will receive funding from the Department of State to support the cost of their academic programs and will serve as cultural ambassadors in their host countries.

Why it matters

The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship provides up to $5,000 for students with demonstrated financial need who plan to study abroad. Likewise, the Gilman-McCain Scholarship provides funding specifically for dependents of active military personnel. By funding study abroad programs of any length, the Gilman Scholarship helps to ensure that students can have impactful international experiences that align with their interests, goals and academic schedule. Students can receive additional funding for critical-need language study or STEM research projects.

Who they are

Music industry studies and advertising double major Dax Andrews is a rising junior. He will use funding from the Gilman Scholarship to study in Germany and Spain this summer. Already involved with Student Gamecock Television, Andrews looks forward to gaining an international perspective on media and arts throughout his program, and he will draw upon what he learns this summer as he pursues a career in advertising and music management.

Bess Bridwell is a rising senior and Capstone scholar majoring in English. She will spend the summer in Aix-en-Provence, France, for a four-week French language program. This program will bring her one step closer to completing her Francophone studies minor. According to Bridwell, applying for the Gilman Scholarship helped her to reflect on her goals for both her study abroad program and her future career. Upon graduation, she plans to study environmental law.

Rising junior and Honors College student Elliott Catoe-Griffis is pursuing a degree in public health. Her study abroad program will travel to San Jose, Costa Rica, for the Global USC Public Health Maymester. She will take public health courses with USC faculty while observing Costa Rica’s health care system. After gleaning international insight, Catoe-Griffis hopes to apply this knowledge throughout a public health policy career focusing on reproductive rights.

Tristen Davis, a rising junior and Honors civil engineering major, will participate in the SCHC Service Learning and Literacy in Malawi, Africa, Maymester. He and his classmates will volunteer in local schools, nursing homes and pop-up wellness stations, and they will also visit the U.S. Embassy in Malawi. Additionally, Davis is excited to experience the local landscapes and wildlife. After completing his studies, he aspires to join the Department of Defense as a civil engineer.

Leah Pleskonko is a rising senior and first-generation student majoring in marketing and management with a sustainability in business concentration. The Gilman-McCain Scholarship will fund her Maymester experience in Japan. Throughout the application process, she learned that “no matter where you came from or your situation, if you have clear intent and ambition, you can achieve anything you need to succeed.” Pleskonko plans to pursue a career in sales.

African American studies major Tamia Starks is a rising junior. She will study abroad during the spring 2025 semester in Nagasaki, Japan. Starks looks forward to learning more about Japanese history and African American/Japanese relations. This opportunity to study and build connections with other students abroad will fuel her pursuit of a career in higher education. She would like to be an African American and Japanese cultural historian or work in university housing and residence life. 

National Fellowships and Scholar Programs provides support for Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and Gilman-McCain Scholarship applicants. Students interested in learning more should contact USC’s national fellowships team.

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