The tagline at Floyd Haynes’ office at Stony Brook University in New York is “Go Abroad and Get Ahead.” Haynes works at getting the word out among low-income and underrepresented students that yes, they too can study abroad for a summer or semester.
“That is our focus,” the assistant dean for Finance and Administration of Stony Brook’s Global Affairs/International Academic Programs told me. “We want Pell-eligible and other students from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds to know that they can add another dimension—that of studying abroad—to their college-going experience.”
Haynes sometimes works with Jen Green, External Scholarships and Fellowships Advisor as well as Fulbright Program Advisor at Stony Brook.
“Having a conversation with these students is usually the first step toward their realizing that overseas study is feasible,” Green says.
Studying in Wuhan, China
Green was instrumental in making a summer in Wuhan, China, possible for Lydia Senatus, who wanted to study somewhere exotic but for whom finances were an obstacle.
“A friend suggested that I apply for the Gilman scholarship,” Senatus told me. “But I didn’t know what it was or how to apply for it.”
She went to Stony Brook’s study abroad office and was directed to see Green.
“The fellowships are merit-based but often give priority to students who have financial need,” Green says. “Many are geared toward getting students to study overseas, particularly those who are low income or underrepresented.”
Senatus says Green worked with her one-on-one to construct the application for the Gilman, making her summer in China possible. The Gilman Scholarship Program is sponsored by the U.S. State Department; it provides financing to study abroad to students of limited financial means.
“We’ve set up a study abroad scholarship fund,” Haynes says, “as well as a study abroad Fund for Excellence.”
His office has partnered with the school’s EOP/AIM program—which stands for Educational Opportunity Program/Advancement on Individual Merit. Haynes says it is the top program in the country for bringing students from very low-income backgrounds to college and graduating them in four years.
Green says her office also has “strong representation” in the Student African American Brotherhood and Sisterhood organizations.
“I work on trying to find different ways to reach the student body at large,” she says.
“It’s about outreach and awareness,” says Haynes. “Making information available to the student. It’s an information campaign.”
Researching in Barbados
Rashaun Allen, who graduated last year from Stony Brook with a master’s in fine arts in creative writing, always knew he had Barbadian roots, but because his grandmother had died only two weeks after giving birth to his mother, his family’s Barbadian story was essentially an unknown one.
Yet, Allen says he was always fascinated about his family’s heritage. Now, he’s living in Barbados researching his family’s ancestry as a Fulbright Scholar.
So far, his research has gone back as far as 1835. His goals are to go back as far as he can and to meet any living relatives who still live on the island.
Allen says many think the Fulbright is only for STEM majors.
“But I’ve met Fulbright Scholars who are doing photography, health projects, and teaching. There is a range of possibilities within the Fulbright experience.”
Allen hopes to publish what he learns about his family once his fellowship is over in May.
“Often within your own family there’s a big, powerful story,” he says.
And since Senatus returned from China, the Stony Brook senior has been awarded a 2018 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship. The fellowship supports those seeking a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.
Haynes and Green say that for many first-generation college students, just being in college is an achievement and that many don’t consider spending any time overseas.
But Haynes says that going abroad builds on their college success: “The global education experience is for the best young minds.”