West Virginia University students Macie Cooper and Cody White have been awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, allowing them to travel abroad this summer.

Cooper, a senior ceramics major from Coalton, is already in China. White, a fourth-year mechanical engineering and Russian Studies double-major from Charleston, will travel to Bahrain in July.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsors the scholarship, which gives students of limited financial means up to $5,000 to use toward study abroad costs.

The Gilman is just one of a number of prestigious scholarship programs WVU students compete for, with names like Goldwater, Truman, Boren and others. Over the last five years, WVU students have received 42 of those high-value scholarships, half of them in just the last two years.

“ASPIRE is thrilled with the successes of the past five years, as it reflects the hard work and talent of our students. We already know what a special student body we have here, and it is terrific to see national foundations recognize our students as well,” said Amy Cyphert, director of the ASPIRE program at WVU. “Applying for these prestigious awards benefits applicants in so many ways beyond simply winning them, and we’re honored to work with these outstanding students and look forward to continued successes.”

WVU was the only college or university in the state to have more than one Gilman scholar in 2013.

“The great thing about the Gilman Scholarship is that it helps a greater diversity of students get to experience study abroad in a greater diversity of places,” said Ryan Claycomb, assistant dean at the Honors College. “As the knowledge economy becomes ever more globally interconnected, students need that much more experience crossing borders beyond the classroom, and these scholarships make that possible for students who may not otherwise have had full access to those opportunities.”

WVU's Gilman Scholars
2009 Joseph Bailey
2009 Katasha Leggett
2010 Justin Moore
2010 Faith Pirlo
2010 Shawnna Mullenax
2013 Macie Cooper
2013 Cody White

Cooper spent two years in exercise physiology before returning to what she really loved most – ceramics.

“I had originally intended to go to school for art, but somewhere along the way I let people talk me out of it,” she said. “It’s what I had pretty much wanted all along ? What swayed me the most was touching clay again and remembering how much I loved it.”

Growing up, she was artistically inclined just like her mother. In middle school, she took a tour of the local community arts center and decided to learn ceramics.

“That class really kind of kick started my love of ceramics,” she said.

The Gilman Scholarship will enable Cooper to spend more than a month in China, traveling and learning new techniques.

She stayed in Shanghai for a week and visited the Shanghai Art Museum. She will travel to Jingdezhen for three weeks to make ceramics at a pottery workshop, taught by local artisans, on traditional Chinese blue and white painting, mold making, carving and onglazing. Then, she will stop in Xi-an to visit more museums and see the Terracotta Army. Her trip will end in Beijing.

When Cooper returns to the U.S. later this summer, she will share her experiences with high school students.

“I hope to bring back the new clay techniques I learned while I was here, so I can improve my own ceramic work,” she said. “I also hope to bring back stories of my experiences to share with others to hopefully get them thinking about going out and seeing the world, because it really is an amazing experience.”

Cooper would like to become a successful pottery teacher in a community arts setting to share her experiences with others.

White hopes to start a career in the oil and natural gas industry once he graduates from WVU. He intends to work for the government in some capacity.

White has ample experience abroad. He has already earned two prestigious scholarships – the Boren and Critical Language – that have taken him around the world. He is the first known student in the University’s history to be awarded three different prestigious scholarships.

Despite all of that, he was originally selected as an alternate for the Gilman Scholarship before learning later that he received it.

“It was a humbling thing. I was really blessed to be a recipient. It reminded me that you have to keep working hard no matter the success you’ve had,” he said.

White has been interested in languages since he was 16 when he took his first trip abroad to Russia to visit an exchange student. From that point, he started to get involved with his high school’s international community and then decided to make it a priority in college at WVU.

“Before that first trip, I didn’t realize how much you could take away from an experience like studying abroad,” he said.

He’s broadening his international reach now. Last semester, he began to learn German, and he’s already finished his minor in Spanish. White intends to learn another language – Arabic – with the Gilman Scholarship.

After he finishes an internship at the Aramco Services Co. later this summer, White will head to Bahrain for four weeks of Arabic classes. He will also volunteer while he’s there. When he gets back, White will continue his Arabic studies at WVU.

“I really want to immerse myself in the culture there,” he said.

White is also the director of academics abroad for WVU’s Student Government Association, and he hopes to use this experience to increase study abroad participation at the University, while making the process easier for students.

The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, developed in honor of retired U.S. House of Representative and chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, was awarded to more than 850 students from 324 colleges and universities across the country. The program aims to diversify the students who study abroad and the countries and regions where they go. Scholarships are awarded as funds up to $5,000; additional funds for critical language study are available up to $3,000. Financial need is a consideration for applications.



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