Mercer University’s Global Leader Scholarship (GLS) is being expanded by the Office of International Programs to allow more students to study abroad. The scholarship was launched in September 2019 to support students with financial need in pursuing long-term study abroad opportunities at the University.

The scholarship initially offered up to $8,000 per student for programs of eight weeks or longer, but the program will now also include awards up to $5,000 for programs of three to eight weeks and up to $3,000 for programs shorter than three weeks.

Rebekah Anaya, associate director for study abroad programs and Peace Corps Prep program coordinator, said that the expansion will allow even more students to pursue new experiences. “The expansion of the Global Leader Scholarship allows for all our undergraduate students to apply for the GLS to use towards Mercer Abroad programs,” she said.

The expansion also opens a larger total scholarship pool, increasing from $80,000 per year to $130,000 per year.

Students have praised the GLS for the opportunities it has provided to immerse themselves in other cultural contexts. Senior Erika Thomas and alumna Iran Hernandez Imbert recounted their trip to Brighton, England, and its positive impact on their college experience.

“The scholarship was a really great aid to study abroad and was a very convincing factor for my parents,” Imbert said. “It pretty much covered the whole cost of going there, and it was just really great taking classes for my mechanical engineering major. It was nice to have that experience and to live in a different city while helping to prepare me for more international opportunities.”

“It gave me a new perspective on education systems because we would only take one exam for the entire semester rather than taking multiple exams throughout,” Thomas added. “Now I know to go through material in a more efficient way than before going abroad, so that’s one thing that I didn’t expect to gain but I’m glad that I did.”

Anaya also sees the expansion of the scholarship as an opportunity for exponential growth within the program, especially as opportunities for study abroad begin to reopen with the availability of effective coronavirus vaccines.

“We are hoping to increase student participation through this scholarship,” Anaya said. “Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a third of our students were studying abroad before graduation and we had the most students participating in spring break study abroad than we’ve ever had.”

Dr. Julie Strecker, director of international programs, is also enthusiastic about the program’s expansion and its potential to help more students who participate in a wider variety of study abroad programs.

“Initially, the Global Leader Scholarship was designed to encourage more students to consider long-term study abroad,” Dr. Strecker said. “During pre-COVID times, less than 3% of all students who studied abroad did so for longer than eight weeks. But times are changing, and we want to make sure we support our students through these changes as best we can.”

Anaya sees a bright future for the GLS in terms of allowing students to leave their mark both abroad and back home at Mercer.

“A big idea for the scholarship is to encourage students to become global leaders,” Anaya said. “Mercer’s tagline is ‘Everyone majors in changing the world,’ and this scholarship encourages students to give back to the Mercer community by being a study abroad ambassador and encouraging other students to go overseas and letting them know it’s possible financially.”

Jacqueline Lamothe, a Lilburn native, is a sophomore journalism major and graphic design minor at Mercer University. Jacqueline is a member of the Student Government Association, Leadership Mercer and National Council of Negro Women.