Mercer University had three students chosen during the fall selection cycle to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad.

Aleshia Allen, a senior majoring in global health studies; Johnera Miller, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering; and Beyonce Shinholster, a junior pre-nursing student, received a total of $11,000 in funding to participate in programs abroad.

“We are so excited for these students and the impact they will have abroad due to the Gilman Scholarship,” said Emily Dunn, assistant director of global education. “The Gilman Scholarship allows for students who are underrepresented in study abroad to have a life-changing opportunity, and we cannot wait to see how these students will grow and change the world around them.” 

headshot of Aleshia Allen
Aleshia Allen

As a Gilman Scholar, Allen will participate in Mercer’s faculty-led Spring Break in Mexico program. Students will visit museums and neighborhoods to learn about pre-Hispanic, colonial, folk, modern and contemporary history; architecture; and art from Mexico City, Puebla and the country of Mexico.

“Ever since I was younger, I wanted to explore; I wanted to learn different languages and broaden my horizons, but I didn’t really see it as a possibility,” said Allen, a first-generation college student. “Then I heard about the Gilman Scholarship, and this is an opportunity for me to finally be able to travel and learn more.”

Studying abroad plays a vital role in her education, she said.

“As someone who wants to work in the anthropological field mainly with people from different cultures and who speak different languages, it was very important for me to get an opportunity to actually do that in real life,” said Allen, who is minoring in anthropology and Asian studies.

Allen is the president and founder of Mercer Mandarin, a student club for Mandarin language learners and enthusiasts, and a member of Sigma Sigma Rho, a historically South Asian-based sorority.

headshot of johnera miller
Johnera Miller

This summer, Miller will participate in a Mercer On Mission trip to Bangladesh, where she’ll work in the underserved community of Jhenaidah. There, students will design and build bio-sand water filters to help provide clean drinking water; survey and build relationships with community members; conduct research for a future project; and learn how to build low-cost brick homes.

“I wanted something that was really going to help me out of my comfort zone and also make a difference,” Miller said.

Miller is a member of Society of Women Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, Organization of Black Students, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Studying abroad will benefit her future career, she said.

“Since electrical engineering is a very small field of all engineering, I think this will make me stand apart from others and also help me think outside the box,” she said.

She said she is grateful to have received the Gilman Scholarship and wants to help spread awareness to others, especially Black students, about its availability.

Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000 — or up to $8,000 if they are also a recipient of the Gilman Critical Need Language Award — to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs.

Mercer is one of the top producers of Gilman Scholars in the country. The University has been recognized as both a Gilman Top Producing Institution and a Gilman Greatest Growth Institution for its role in broadening the student population that studies abroad overall, as well as in areas of priority achievement.

The next cycle for the Gilman Scholarship is currently open for applicants whose in-person programs or internships start between May 1, 2023, and April 30, 2024. The application deadline is March 9. Those interested in applying for the scholarship should make an appointment with Dunn at

Since the program’s establishment in 2001, more than 1,350 U.S. institutions have sent over 36,000 Gilman Scholars of diverse backgrounds to 155 countries around the globe.

The Gilman program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is supported in its implementation by the Institution of International Education.

About Mercer University

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. With approximately 9,000 students enrolled in 12 schools and colleges, on major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; medical school sites in Macon, Savannah and Columbus; and at regional academic centers in Henry and Douglas counties, Mercer is ranked among the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report. The Mercer Health Sciences Center includes the University’s School of Medicine and Colleges of Nursing, Health Professions and Pharmacy. Mercer is affiliated with five teaching hospitals – Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare in Columbus. The University also has an educational partnership with Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon, an engineering research center in Warner Robins, and Mercer Medicine clinics in Sumter, Peach, Clay and Putnam counties. Mercer is one of only 293 institutions nationwide to shelter a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society; one of eight institutions to hold membership in the Georgia Research Alliance; and the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit