I Won $8,100, and I’m Giving It All Away To…

by Jeremy Bassetti

Each year, faculty at my institution apply for a series of awards called “Endowed Chairs.” These awards are designed to provide faculty with the financial resources to complete a project that will benefit students or student learning. Half of the award typically goes to fund the project and the other half typically goes to the faculty members as an incentive to carry out their projects, many of which demand a lot of time and energy.

I applied for the Patricia Havill Whalen Chair in Social Sciences, which comes with a sizable $8,100 award, and won! As an advocate for study abroad, I proposed to use the money to help students pay their study abroad program fees. Instead of pocketing half, though, I decided to give the entire award away as scholarships to a number of students who participate in a study abroad program I will lead to Italy in 2019. Having received scholarships to study abroad when I was in school, I am as acutely aware of the financial need of students as I am the life-long benefits of study abroad. Simply put, the students need the money more than I do, and study abroad experiences for young adults are so formative and meaningful that it would be a dereliction of duty as an educator not to fund these experiences with the entire award.

I won the same award last year, and applied the entire award to fund scholarships for a study abroad program to Spain. Here are some comments students wrote about last year’s program in the anonymous evaluation:

  • “It really made me look at myself, the way I behave, and the way I treat others. It also brought to light, for me, the way our culture perceives others. I have learned so much from this experience and it has changed me significantly.”
  • “My eyes have opened.”
  • “This program has helped me feel my calling for life should be in [a] Humanities field.”
  • “I want to study humanities and then eventually travel around the world for different humanitarian causes or working for a university in anthropological research. This program helped me get out of my norm and experience a total different world and different people.”
  • “This experience was life changing.”
  • “I feel as though [this experience] has given me a more profound understanding of different cultures other than my own and also reflecting on my own and seeing those differences has given me much perspective on my own life.”
  • “In this program I definitely learned a lot about myself and I feel like I changed for the better. I learned how to appreciate my country a bit more.”

Study abroad program leaders and educators know how wonderful it feels to hear young adults express these sentiments. This is why I do this work, and why I feel that giving money to support study abroad scholarships pays dividends like no other.

Thanks to Patricia Havill Whalen for setting up the endowment, and to the Valencia Foundation and committee for selecting my application. And congratulations to the other Endowed Chair recipients who are carrying out other projects to benefit students and student learning.

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