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Eight Students Win Gilman Scholarships

A ninth earns a Critical Language Scholarship, marking a record year for study abroad awards

Posted in: Homepage News, University

seven of the eight Gilman Scholarship winners for 2021-22
Seven of the eight Gilman Scholarship winners for 2021-22, clockwise from top left: Karina Bloom, Adam Chhour, Samantha Gerbrick, Isaiah Ayestas, Daphne Desir, Kayla Cespedes and Daisy Gonzalez.

A record eight Montclair State students have been awarded the prestigious U.S. Department of State Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for the 2021-2022 academic year, while a ninth student was awarded a State Department Critical Language Scholarship.

In addition to a record-breaking number of Fulbright semi-finalists and finalists, these prestigious State Department-sponsored awards cap a remarkable year for the University’s Study Abroad program and the Office of International Academic Initiatives, led by Director Domenica Dominguez.

The eight Gilman Scholarship awardees include five who were awarded this spring – Isaiah Ayestas, Kayla Cespedes, Adam Chhour, Daphne Desir and Daisy Gonzalez – and three who were awarded in December 2020 – Samantha Gerbrick, Karina Bloom and Georgi Naumov.

The U.S. Department of State Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship supports international study for students who otherwise may not have been able to do so. It is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide.

This year marks the highest number of Gilman Scholarships awarded to Montclair State students in any academic year as well as in any single application cycle (five in spring 2021).

“This scholarship will open doors to so many opportunities. I will be able to create a path towards my future career,” says Daphne Desir, a freshman Public Health major.

Adamn Chhour, a junior studying to earn a BFA in Filmmaking, was equally excited: “This scholarship helps financially aid my trip to Japan so that I can focus more on the experience and school while there instead of thinking about the financial burdens.”

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Karina Bloom wants “to create a unique pathway in this new stage of my life by combining education with my love for travel. With the generous help of the Gilman Scholarship, I will be able to study abroad in Spain next year, and embark on my first trip as a civilian! I’m thankful for the Office of International Academic Initiatives, the Center for Writing Excellence, family and friends for assisting me in this process.”

In the event that Gilman Scholarship students are unable to travel to their destinations in fall 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, they will have the opportunity to postpone their awards to a later term.

“We are very proud of the effort that these students put into completing their applications and clearly their hard work has paid off. We are excited to see students from different academic disciplines awarded this scholarship, and we look forward to having them represent the University on their respective overseas programs” stated Samantha Hellwege, former Study Abroad Coordinator and Gilman Scholarship advisor.

Meet the Gilman Scholarship recipients:

  • Samantha Gerbrick, junior, double majoring in Political Science and German with a minor in Global Security and Diplomacy, plans to study abroad Academic Year 2021-2022 at the University of Graz, Austria. She is also the recipient of the University’s Montclair-Graz Sister City Scholarship.
  • Karina Bloom, freshman, majoring in Music Performance, plans to study abroad fall 2021 at Nebrija University in Madrid, Spain. She is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
  • Georgi Naumov, sophomore, double majoring in Mathematics and Economics, plans to study abroad fall 2021 in Madrid, Spain.
  • Adam Chhour, junior, majoring in Filmmaking, plans to study abroad in fall 2021 at Temple University’s Japan Campus in Tokyo.
  • Daphne Desir, freshman, majoring in Public Health, plans to study abroad in spring 2022 at the University of Seoul in South Korea.
  • Isaiah Ayestas, sophomore, majoring in Justice Studies, plans to study abroad in spring 2022 at Temple University’s Japan Campus in Tokyo.
  • Daisy Gonzalez, senior, majoring in Computer Science, plans to study abroad in fall 2021 at the University of Seoul in South Korea.
  • Kayla Cespedes, junior, majoring in Psychology, plans to study abroad in fall 2021 at the American College of Greece in Athens, Greece.

In addition, Emily Boyle, an undergraduate Biology major and Chinese minor at Montclair State has been awarded a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship to study Chinese during the summer of 2021. Boyle is one of the nearly 700 students from the U.S. to receive this highly competitive award and the second Montclair State student since 2015.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a fully funded 8-10 week summer study abroad program that provides intensive overseas language and cultural immersion. The goal of the program is to broaden the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and build relationships between the people of the United States and other countries.

Boyle is passionate about Chinese culture and hopes to one day be a professional translator in a U.S.-China joint conservation program.

“We are particularly proud to have Emily Boyle awarded a scholarship for studying Chinese in summer 2021. Her interdisciplinary interests in both science and language will meet a critical need in the world,” says Wendy Gilbert-Simon, Student Mobility Coordinator and CLS Advisor. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Boyle will participate in her program virtually this year.

Students seeking additional information about Study Abroad scholarships can visit Scholarships and Financial Aid. For more information about the Critical Language Scholarship, contact a CLS Advisor: Dr. Renata Blumberg, Associate Professor, Nutrition and Food Studies, Email: or Wendy Gilbert-Simon, Student Mobility Coordinator

Reporting by Jazmin Mora-Amaya, Class of 2024. Mora-Amaya is majoring in Business Administration and works as a Student Assistant in the Office of International Academic Initiatives.

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