A&S Students Chosen to Study Abroad on Gilman Scholarship

By Whitney Hale

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 23, 2022) — University of Kentucky College of Arts & Sciences students have received Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to support their education abroad goals.

The Gilman Scholarship supports students who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad, including but not limited to  students with high financial need, community college students, students in under-represented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds and students with disabilities. Award recipients are chosen by a competitive selection process and must use the award, ranging from $100 to $5,000, to defray the cost of tuition, room and board, books, local transportation, insurance and international airfare.

The scholarship is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute of International Education.

The UK recipients of the Gilman Scholarship include:

  • Alexis Farmer, an anthropology senior from Alexandria, Louisiana, to study in Thailand.
  • Kaitlyn Johnson, a Spanish senior from Prestonsburg, Kentucky, to study in Costa Rica.
  • Leanna McCarty, an anthropology and linguistics senior from Morehead, Kentucky, to study in Romania.
  • Mariah Ransom, a biology junior from Paris, Kentucky, who will study in Italy.

Farmer, who is pursuing a minor in modern and classical languages, literatures and cultures/Chinese studies in addition to her anthropology degree, is advancing her language skills through the Gilman.

“This scholarship will allow me to … further my language acquisition in Chinese. Thailand has many native Chinese speakers," she said.  "Being able to study Chinese in Thailand, and having daily access to classes, local speakers and study materials in my target language will help me become more proficient using Mandarin in the workplace after graduation. Studying abroad will also allow me to network with locals and professors to gain experience in my field.”

At UK, Farmer has been active in the UK Anthropology Club and Chinese Club and is a UK CLIME ambassador. This summer, she worked at the Webb Museum of Anthropology and helped co-author research with mentors Elena Sesma,  assistant professor of anthropology, and Ann Kingsolver, professor of anthropology, published in a special issue of Southern Anthropologist. Farmer also counts Juliana McDonald, associate professor of anthropology, Sihui Ke, assistant professor of second language acquisition and Pat Whitlow, director of UK’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, as being influential in her studies.

After graduating, Farmer is considering pursing a master’s degree in anthropology and opportunities for research abroad.

Johnson is minoring in Latin American, Caribbean and Latino studies in addition to her language and linguistics track of Spanish. She believes the Gilman offers a variety of opportunities to study abroad, network internationally and pursue future opportunities like a Fulbright or government employment.

Passionate about Latin American culture, Johnson has been active in research on the implications of climate change in the region and the impact of colonization on the African diaspora in the Dominican Republic. She credits Jennifer Garlin, her senior academic adviser, for being instrumental in her studies during her time at UK.

After commencement, Johnson hopes to teach English abroad and then return to the United States to get her master’s degree and doctorate in Latin American studies. Her career plans are to become a researcher and professor. 

McCarty, who is pursing degrees in linguistics and anthropology, used the Gilman to participate in the 2022 Juvenile Osteology Research Workshop in preparation for graduate school.

“These experiences will stay with me for the rest of my life,” she said.

At UK, McCarty has been doing research with Renee Bonzani, senior lecturer in anthropology, on stable isotope analysis of deer and dog bones to analyze whether they were eating maize during certain time periods.

McCarty credits Sesma, as well as assistant professors of anthropology Heather Worne and Celise Chilcote-Fricker, as having an impact on her chosen academic path guiding her through college selections for graduate school, programs to apply for, and everyday class questions. “I wouldn't be where I am, or able to accept this scholarship, without them.”

Upon completion of her degree, McCarty plans to pursue a master’s degree in forensics or biological anthropology and linguistics.

“I may even go on to obtain my Ph.D. in the topics as well," McCarty said. "I will never stop wanting to learn more, and who’s to say I have to stop?”

The Office of Nationally Competitive Awards assists current UK undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni in applying for internships, external scholarships and fellowships funded by sources (such as a nongovernment foundation or government agency) outside the university. These awards honor exceptional students across the nation. The next Gilman Scholarship deadline is Oct. 6. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to contact the office well in advance of the scholarship deadline.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.