Alex Bell ’21, a Southwestern junior majoring in anthropology, has been awarded a 2019 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The highly competitive scholarship allows U.S. undergraduate students with financial need to continue their academic studies or intern abroad. This year, the Gilman program reviewed a record 5,000 applications for their Cycle 1 programs; Bell is one of the 1,300 students offered an award and the 15th student from Southwestern to win a Gilman grant in the past seven years.  

“Without this scholarship and others, I don’t think that studying abroad would be feasible for me,” says a grateful Bell, who prefers they/them/their as their pronouns. The Gilman scholarship, combined with several others that Bell has recently won, will make the financial burden of attending the program “more manageable,” they say.

The funding will allow the Southwestern junior to spend the spring 2020 semester in Santiago, Chile, engaging in a program hosted by the School for International Training (SIT). “The particular program that I’ve chosen, which focuses on education and social change, will allow me to do six weeks of independent research that I will then use to develop my anthropology capstone,” they share. Bell, who is president of Empowering Blacks and Others to Never Yield (EBONY) and vice president of the Alpha Tau chapter of the Latina-founded national sorority Kappa Delta Chi at SU, will study the Chilean education system, which connects with their community-engaged learning at Southwestern and their postgraduation goal of teaching. In addition, the Spanish minor will have the opportunity to improve their speaking skills through immersive experiences and a homestay.

Sarah Brackmann, senior director of integrative and community-engaged learning, is excited for Bell. “I could go on and on about Alex,” she says. “[They are] a strong student and an exemplary student leader. In addition to [their] work in the classroom, [they have] also spent the last two semesters teaching ESL to families at Bridges to Growth, a nonprofit in Georgetown that supports early-childhood education. Last spring, [they] helped lead a Spring Breakaway group in San Francisco when the other student leader got injured… . I am so excited that [they] received the Gilman Scholarship.”

Awarded since 2001 and named for a U.S. congressman from New York, the Gilman International Scholarship Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the Institute of International Education. It serves to encourage U.S. students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world. Students are encouraged to choose unconventional study-abroad destinations, especially in areas outside Western Europe and Australia. For more information on the Gilman International Scholarship Program, visit

Congratulations, Alex!