Reflections on the GLBT Rainbow Scholarship

Today’s guest blogger is Peter Kerrigan.  I’m delighted that he has taken time to share his reflections on the GLBT scholarship with Melibee readers. It is a very important contribution to the work that we do and his words remind me of how much of an impact we make in the lives of students simply by finding a few extra dollars to support them on the path of self discovery.  

Do you ever have those days where you think why do I do what I do? The alarm goes off at some unforgiving hour of the morning, usually on a Monday in the throes of a cold winter. You have just been jolted out of some confusing, but meaningful dream and are struggling to get up. After the “five minutes more” plea which nobody can ultimately grant, the “why” question then pops up. Why? Why? Why? Well, this year on one January morning (not a cold one) in Washington DC, I had an experience which once again showed me why I do what I do – and why we do what we do in the field of international education.  I served on the selection committee for the Rainbow Scholarship hosted by the Fund for Education Abroad (FEA).

The Rainbow scholarship is a new one – several years in the making. It is (and will be) awarded to a deserving GLBT student who aims to participate in a high-quality, rigorous education abroad program and meets the general FEA scholarship eligibility requirements and preferences.  The Rainbow Scholarship is the brainchild of a group of international education professionals who are committed to advocating on behalf of GLBT students. These professionals see what an impact a stay abroad can have on any student, but in particular those dealing with issues of identity and sexuality. They counsel international and study abroad GLBT students and support their GLBT colleagues in the field. Many of these educators have come together through groups created with the support of NAFSA, CIEE and The Forum on Education Abroad.

Serving on the selection committee was reaffirming to say the least. It is the first year of the scholarship, which by nature of its very young life is still shaping its own identity.  Reading those applications reminded me how important it is what we do in the field and what we do to reach the GLBT students.  There were many strong applications and deserving applicants. I wish I could have written a check to support them all. Not only is that financially impossible, but it would also defeat the purpose of the scholarship. Most of the testimonials were compelling; the goals admirable; and the dreams and hopes palpable.  After much fruitful discussion the selection committee chose its top three. Once the winner has been notified, FEA will be able to announce it publicly. Suffice to say the top three candidates are amazing and truly embody the spirit of study abroad and our goals of diversifying international education. The FEA has provided such a welcoming home to the scholarship!

Here is where you come in. Yes, the readers of this blog. We need your help. To publicize the scholarship. To create visibility. To solicit donations (and lots of them).  Funds have to be raised (a) to provide the minimum of one $5,000 scholarship per year and (b) to create an endowment. So please use whatever marketing instrument, social media outlet or PR vehicle you can to spread the word.  Tweat. Share. Post. Email. Network. Whatever it takes. We need to galvanize the public to really get this scholarship off the ground.  So please do what you can! Mark Lenhart and Kate McPhail of FEA can provide you with any text you might need.  You can start here (see the bottom of the page for scholarship info and a link to their contact page).

I look forward to hearing back from the recipient of the scholarship – to see how his/her life has changed. To see what new direction will be taken as a result. What insights have been gained. This is why we do what we do.

About the Author:  Peter Kerrigan is the Deputy Director of the German Academic Exchange Service’s (DAAD) New York office and Director of Marketing and Development for DAAD in North America. He is responsible for all areas of marketing of German higher education and research and the DAAD’s scholarship programs in the U.S. and Canada. Peter served as Vice President of Membership Development and Services at The Forum on Education Abroad; Assistant Director of the Higher Education Resource Group at the Institute of International Education (IIE); and Senior Program Coordinator in the Work Abroad Division of the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). He is the Co-Chair of EAIE’s Professional Development. He is a member of the Standards Committee of The Forum on Education Abroad and runs their task force on foreign language acquisition and immersion. He is also on the Advisory Board of NAFSA Rainbow Special Interest Group. Peter has also completed a manuscript about the loss of a twin. He was awarded an M.A. in Political Science by the Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany and a B.A. in Political Science and German by Bates College, Maine, USA. He can be reached at kerrigan@daad.org.