Fairfield University Senior Thomas Russo Awarded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for Environmental Studies in Thailand

Submitted by Joan Grant on September 22, 2009

pr_trusso09Thomas Russo, a University College senior at Fairfield University, was selected as a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Administered by the Institute of International Education, the $4,500 award makes it possible for Russo, who is a Wilton resident, to study Development and Globalization at the University of Khon Kaen in Thailand from August 2009 through January 2010.

In a brief telephone interview with Russo in July upon his return to Conn. from an API Spanish Immersion Program in Argentina and before his departure for Thailand, Russo shared his excitement about his study abroad.

“I’m a little nervous. I don’t know anyone in the program at Khon Kaen but that’s fine. I’m excited to meet new people. There will be about thirty American students in the class and we will be visiting subsistence farmers in villages along the Mekong River. We will have a chance to see firsthand, the impact of Thai damming projects in terms of a human and environmental perspective.”

Asked what made him decide to apply for the scholarship, Russo said he was encouraged to do so by Christopher Johnson, assistant dean of international education and Karen Donnelly, academic counselor, both at University College.

“I wanted a ‘self- designed major’ and decided to combine environmental studies and international studies. Dr. (Dina) Franceschi is my international studies advisor and she contributed to helping me design my major.”

According to the Gilman Scholarship Program website, the program is congressionally funded and recognizes that “international experience is critically important in the educational and career development of American students.” The Program is designed to offer “… grants for U.S. citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies abroad.”

With the understanding that “such international study is intended to better prepare U.S. students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world,” applicants are “encouraged to choose non-traditional study abroad destinations, especially those outside of Western Europe and Australia.”

After Russo’s graduation in 2010, he is anxious to focus on economic issues from within a non-governmental organization or a non-profit organization. “It’s possible that I might even join the Peace Corps or work for a human rights organization.” According to Russo, the possibilities are endless.

You can follow Russo on his blog.

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