Chowdhury, Owen Win Competitive Gilman Awards

Isabel Owen (left), Thasfia Chowdhury

Isabel Owen ’20 (left) and Thasfia Chowdhury ’20 are the latest SUNY Geneseo recipients of Gilman International Scholarships.

GENESEO, N.Y. -- SUNY Geneseo students Thasfia Chowdhury '20 and Isabel Owen '20 have won Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships in a national competition.  They are the 23nd and 24th Geneseo students to win this State Department award created to financially assist U.S. undergraduates of limited financial means in pursuing academic studies or credit-bearing, career-oriented internships abroad to better prepare them to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world.

Chowdhury, a sophomore from Jamaica, N.Y., is majoring in political science and government and applied for a summer 2018 study abroad program in Bahia, Brazil. She recently also won an Institute for International Education (IIE) Generation Study Abroad Travel Grant for her study abroad to Brazil which is entitled, ANTH 216: The African Diaspora. According to the program description, Chowdhury will “focus on the history and present-day lives of members of the African Diaspora in Brazil” examining “the legacy of the colonial experience and the development of Afro-Brazilian culture and identity” and issues “such as race and identity, social inequality, religion, cultural forms such as capoeira, cultural and eco-tourism, the intersection of gender, race, and class, health and healthcare.”

The four-week program in Brazil aligns Chowdhury with the coursework she has been taking in her major as the ANTH 216 course delves “into the impacts of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism on both the historical and modern legacy of Afro-Brazilian people in the coastal state of Bahia… [and] about Spanish and Portuguese colonization throughout Latin America, in direct parallel to the unjust systems of exploitation against natives…” For Chowdhury and other students studying abroad, she feels that traveling outside of the U.S. “not only challenges perceptions of the world, but also encourages reflection that is fundamental to growth.”

Isabel Owen, a junior from Great Neck, N.Y., is a double major in history and literature/English area studies with a Latin American/Caribbean minor. In May, Owen will depart for El Sauce, Nicaragua, a four-hour drive northwest of Managua, the nation’s capital, to take part in a four-week summer Humanities II course which, according to the program description, provides “an introduction to Nicaragua and examine[s] the historical, political, and socioeconomic forces at work in this region” and includes “various aspects of Nicaragua's history, culture, and environment, as well as other topics including the effects of socioeconomic status on development.” Students in the course live with Sauceno families selected to match the housing needs of program participants and do so to facilitate full immersion in Nicaraguan culture.

Owen is presently a student activist working with the local New York Central American migrant community and, through the El Sauce experience, wants to “better understand how globalization and immigration affect developing Central American nations like Nicaragua… My career goal, ultimately, is to work in immigration law to provide counsel for those seeking to change their immigration status, become a citizen, and find work in the United States. Besides law, I plan to work broadly with migrant advocacy for organizations like the Worker’s Justice Center in Rochester, New York.”

“These study abroad experiences can fundamentally change students’ lives and help them understand better the responsibility to be informed and ethical global citizens, a fundamental value that we seek to instill in our students here at Geneseo,” said Michael Mills, director of national fellowships and scholarships. “The Gilman Scholarship provides the financial assistance to make study abroad affordable, or in some cases, possible for students who historically have been underrepresented in education abroad.” 

The summer and fall 2018 application for the next round of Gilman Scholarships is now open with a March 6, 2018 submission deadline. Learn more about the Gilman here.

Students and even alumni seeking more information about and help with applications for the Gilman Scholarship and any other fellowship or scholarship program should contact Mills at or 585-245-6002.


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