McKinley Wins Scholarship for Study in Scotland

Samson McKinley

Samson McKinley '23 (SUNY Geneseo photo/Matt Burkhartt)

Samson McKinley ’23 from Ithaca, NY, has won an extremely competitive Saint Andrew’s Society of the State of New York Scholarship for graduate study in Scotland. McKinley is an international relations major graduating summa cum laude with a concentration in Asian studies. He has already been accepted to the University of St Andrews for a MLitt graduate degree in peacebuilding and mediation.

The Saint Andrew’s Society Scholarship is given yearly to three American students of Scottish descent from New York, New England, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania who can demonstrate financial need. McKinley was also named an alternate selection for a US Student Fulbright award for graduate study in Taiwan at National Chengchi University in Asia-Pacific Studies.

McKinley enlisted in the military soon after high school, performed with distinction in the US and Afghanistan as a military intelligence analyst, and is currently a sergeant in the New York Army National Guard. His experiences in Afghanistan afforded him a unique perspective on peacebuilding as he saw first-hand the limits of top-down approaches to diplomacy.

“The news headlines about the ongoing US-Taliban peace deliberations felt disconnected to conditions on the ground,” he says. “The Taliban is a decentralized organization, but ceasefire negotiations dealt primarily with the group’s highest leadership, and attacks by local warlords continued unabated throughout the peace process.” Experiencing that reality led him to focus his international relations studies and future career on conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

McKinley is the president of Geneseo’s Model United Nations club and planning a career as a diplomat in the US State Department. He was attracted to St Andrews’ reputation as a renowned institution for international relations: “Studying there will afford me unparalleled opportunities to engage with likeminded peers and faculty, and the connections I make at such a globally oriented school will be invaluable to a career in the Foreign Service.”

“Samson is one of the very best undergraduate students I ever taught in my academic career,” says Raslan Ibrahim, assistant professor of political science and international relations. “His combined drive and self-discipline are augmented by a powerful analytical mind. He has the required academic, analytical, communication, leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills to be an excellent student at St Andrews and Foreign Service officer.”

Founded in 1756, the Saint Andrew’s Society of the State of New York is the oldest charitable organization in New York. Members celebrate Scotland and Scottish culture contributing to the fabric and diversity of life in the New York region. The scholarship was established in 1956 to promote cultural interchange and goodwill between the countries.

Students interested in the Saint Andrew’s Society scholarship should contact Michael Mills, Director of National Fellowships and Scholarships, at and 585-245-6002. For more information about other nationally and internationally competitive scholarship and fellowship programs, visit Fellowships and Scholarships.

—Michael Mills