An important point during the review process for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which has provided financial support for more than 25,000 American undergraduate students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, is the opportunity for students to have unique experiences. Thanks to WPI’s Global Projects Program, student applicants are able to deliver just that by describing how their work abroad will create positive, impactful change in the world. WPI was named a Top Producing Institution for the 2016–17 academic year, earning additional recognition as one of the top producers of STEM students as well as one of the top small colleges and universities that produce scholarship winners.
Check out the stories of three WPI students named as Gilman Scholars, and see how their global experiences impacted them and prepared them for life after graduation.
Allysa didn’t expect to complete her IQP in Morocco, but after returning from her trip, she says, “Going there provided me with a more impactful and adventurous experience than any other location would have.”
Sponsored by Autism Speaks, her project involved analyzing conditions faced by children with autism in Morocco. Over the course of seven weeks, she and her teammates conducted surveys and interviews of children and families affected by autism, and created an online database of resources, networks, medical professionals, and other services available to families. The database will be used by Autism Speaks to raise awareness about and ultimately improve conditions for people with autism in Morocco.
Allysa was able to apply the collaboration and communication skills she learned in the classroom to real-world problems; she explains that while her time in Morocco taught her the importance of being open-minded, adventurous, and appreciative, the most important impact the trip had on her was further cementing the value of family and their support.
Allysa will be earning her MS degree as part of WPI’s 5-year BS/MS program, but the skills she learned—including independence, responsibility, and teamwork—will prove invaluable long after graduation.
The opportunity to gain new experiences and have adventures both inside and outside her project was a selling point for Abby as she prepared to go to Ecuador for her IQP. She says, “The opportunity for me to go outside of my language and cultural comfort zone was [also] exciting.”
She and her team drafted and compiled a catalog of bio-sustainable building designs for San Rafael, a rural community in the Andes Mountains region of the country. They lived in the community three days a week for seven weeks while working with a civil engineering professor to design adobe and concrete walls, floors, beams, and columns.
In addition to learning how to communicate with others without using language, she honed her skills in thinking on her feet and working with people who have differing leadership styles, expertise, and experiences. “Overall, I felt huge personal growth over two months in the departments of happiness, gratitude, travel, and work and life experience.”
Abby’s adventures in the mountains will continue after graduation. She plans to work part-time this summer in Jackson, Wy., and she'll be back here in the fall for grad school courses at WPI.
Zachary was interested in completing his IQP in Paraguay not only to immerse himself in the Spanish language, but also to experience life in a developing country. “I’ve grown up in a privileged part of a prospering country,” he explains, “and I wanted to gain new perspectives and insight, as well as appreciation for what I have.”
He and his team focused on two projects involving self-sustainable school La Escuela Agrícola: they designed, installed, and provided a maintenance schedule for a biodigester system to reduce the school’s energy cost, and determined the feasibility of a bakery business run by the school to generate additional revenue.
In addition to the importance of teamwork and collaboration, his time in Paraguay also taught him the importance of humility. When faced with skepticism by locals, he says, “Through humility and listening I was able to earn their respect. My experience working with all kinds of people has taught me new approaches to get people involved and utilize their skills effectively.”
Zachary will be working in an engineering development rotational program at Pratt & Whitney following graduation, and is looking forward to further developing his leadership, management, and collaboration skills.
- By Allison Racicot