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Three to Study in Ghana on Gilman Scholarships

Left to right: Isabella Prince '23, Lily Devlen '23, Queenie Adams '22, and Professor Susan Muench (SUNY Geneseo photo/Keith Walters '11).

Queenie Adams ’22, Lily Devlen ’23, and Isabella Prince ’23 will study abroad this summer in Ghana after winning Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships during the 2022–23 national competition. The State Department award financially assists US 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.

The Ghana study abroad course, Biology and Global Health, will introduce students to “significant ideas in public health through planned cultural and ecological excursions in a low-income country” and explore biological factors on morbidity and mortality. Topics include environmental health—water and air quality, sanitation, and food safety—as well as the “effects of large-scale ecological change on human health, including urbanization, deforestation, and climate change.”

Adams, a senior biology major from Staten Island, NY, emigrated as a child from Ghana where she first “took an interest in infectious diseases like cholera and malaria, which were part of my everyday life.” Her long-term plans include medical school ahead of a return to Ghana and a career in public health with marginalized communities. At Geneseo, she has taken part in parasitic research with Muench involving a community in Tomefa, Ghana.

Devlen, a junior sociomedical sciences major from Cortland, NY, is seeking a career as a hospital administrator or patient advocate and looks forward to “learning more about public health in lower- and middle-income countries like Ghana, as well as about racial and ethnic divides in health care.” She understands the importance of serving as a citizen-diplomat by “working respectfully with the Ghanaian people in both their workplaces as well as through personal interactions to help us broaden cultural exchange.”

Prince is a junior sociomedical sciences major from Westchester, NY, who plans a career in public health or medicine. Her summer abroad will offer holistic insight into Ghana’s medical system through an “immersive and engaged experience. Global health is broad and integrative, and this course will offer me the opportunity to evaluate environmental health, ecological change, and neglected tropical diseases.”

The three-week Ghana trip is led by Susan Bandoni Muench, professor of biology and an evolutionary biologist interested in host-parasite coevolution. For the past 20 years, she has studied schistosomiasis, a tropical disease prevalent in Africa and Latin America. Between 2010 and 2020, Muench led ten Ghana study abroad trips, and in 2011, she was named a Dr. Spencer J. Roemer Supported Professor in recognition of her teaching and research in Ghana.

Muench notes that issues in the field of global health are interconnected as biological issues are inseparable from the economic, social, and geographic context. In Ghana, the students will explore the complex causes of disease transmission in a community and learn that solutions are most often neither simple nor obvious.

“The students’ time in Ghana stimulates them to think deeply about their career choices and the impact that they might have,” she says. “Although the word transformative is often overused in describing study abroad, this experience truly does change lives.”

Gilman Scholars at Geneseo

An institutional record 12 SUNY Geneseo students won Gilman awards during the 2022–23 national competition. Other winners from the Spring 2022 application cycle include McKenzie Flynn ’23 (France), Samson McKinley ’23 (UK), and Brandon Perez ’23 (Japan). Since 2007, 43 Geneseo students have won Gilman scholarships.

The recipients of this year’s prestigious Gilman scholarships attend 536 US colleges and represent all 50 US states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Gilman Scholars will study or intern in 91 countries through April 2023. Since the program’s establishment in 2001, more than 1,300 US institutions have sent over 33,000 Gilman Scholars of diverse backgrounds to 155 countries around the globe.

Gilman Scholarship applications for Spring, Summer, and Fall 2023 will open in mid-August with an October 6 submission deadline. Students and alumni seeking more information about and assistance with applications for the Gilman International Scholarship and any other fellowship or scholarship program should contact Michael Mills, director of National Fellowships and Scholarships, at millsm@geneseo.edu or 585-245-6002.

—Michael Mills