Five WWU students awarded prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships for the 2023-2024 school year

Five Western Washington University students have been awarded Benjamin A. Gilman scholarships from the U.S. State Department to study abroad in the 2023-2024 academic year.

The U.S. Department of State's Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship Program is a nationally competitive and highly distinguished scholarship program awarding students who display financial need and receive a Federal Pell Grant as part of their financial aid package the opportunity to study outside the United States.

Awards range from $1,000 to $5,000, and up to $8,000 for students studying a critical need language such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, or Arabic. This cycle, Western’s recipients received awards totaling $15,500.

The Western students who received Gilman scholarships for the 2023-2024 school year and their destinations include: 

  • Iasis Grandlund (Moses Lake) will study abroad in Greece this summer. She will study sustainable development in the Aegean and Ionian Island communities, and she plans on completing a major in Urban Planning and Sustainable Development here at Western.
  • Annabelle Rand (Tacoma), an anthropology major, will study abroad in Florence, Italy this summer. She will do hands-on field work looking at ancient artifacts from the Hellenistic era through an immersive archeology study.
  • Cindy Elston (Mount Vernon) will be participating in the Salish Seat Biodiversity, Culture and Conservation program in British Columbia and Washington State this summer. She is an environmental science major with minors in Salish Sea studies and Geographic Information Science (GIS). Through immersive fieldwork, Elston plans to study the rich biodiversity, biology and ethnoecology of the Salish Sea region.
  • Emily Lekberg (Kingston) is a marine biology major and chemistry minor. She will travel to both Thailand and Indonesia this winter. She will study marine ecosystems, participate in an ecological study of key Indo-Pacific habitats, research coral reef fish species, develop strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change and more.
  • Jesus Resendiz-Eyler (Vancouver) is a political science major with minors in international relations and German. He will study international politics as well as the German language in Lüneburg, Germany for the 2023-2024 academic year.

A large part of the Gilman Program's mission is to increase the number of U.S. students going abroad to help them gain critical skills for their future careers and academic work.

While abroad, students also have the opportunity to immerse themselves in cultures from across the globe: One of Western’s recipients for this award cycle, Annabelle Rand, is excited to spend her upcoming summer studying in Italy.

“I am going to take a food and wine pairing class for fun, but also to experience a huge and beloved part of Italian culture,” Rand said.

Students like Cindy Elston – another one of Western’s recipients – is excited to expand her knowledge and study close to home; she will complete her work in both Washington State and British Columbia.

“I’m most excited about place-based learning in my home region, and to learn from and interact with the unique biodiversity and communities of the Salish Sea,” Elston said. “It’s a chance to deepen my bonds with this region and explore familiar surroundings in new ways while focusing on topics I’m passionate about.”

Back home in Bellingham, Western’s Education Abroad office strives to connect students with studying abroad opportunities through a number of programs like 1-on-1 and group advising, weekly information sessions, scholarship opportunities, and assisting students with applications – such as the Gilman scholarship – and more.

Hannah Nevitt, Western’s Education Abroad adviser, expanded on the importance of scholarships such as the Gilman program.

“The Gilman Program is more than just a scholarship for our students. It is a pathway to employment edge and personal growth,” Nevitt said.

WWU has many affordable study abroad programs, and even programs that allow for students to “Pay Less than In-State", or Pay WWU In-State Resident rates for tuition and fees on our WWU Exchanges, or through ISEP Exchange for a semester or year, (even for out of state students!) 

“There are many study abroad resources and scholarships available, especially for students from low-income or minority backgrounds,” Elston said. “Students should contact one of Western’s study abroad advisors if they’re interested in studying abroad!”

For more information about affordable study abroad options and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship program at Western, visit Western’s Education Abroad website at or email Hannah Neviit at