Hawkins named WKU’s first Gilman-McCain Scholar
- Tuesday, January 17th, 2023
WKU student Tramaine Hawkins of Hopkinsville was named the institution’s first Gilman-McCain Scholar, a designation awarded to 100 undergraduate child and spousal dependents of active or activated U.S. military personnel for study abroad per academic year.
The John S. McCain International Scholarship for Military Families (Gilman-McCain Scholarship) awards $5,000 for students to study or intern abroad. In summer 2023, Hawkins will use his Gilman-McCain Scholarship to study healthcare administration in Tanzania, a country in the sub-Saharan region of Africa, through the Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS).
Hawkins is a senior majoring in health care administration with a minor in business administration, and he is pursuing certificates in long-term care administration and applied data analytics. “This opens a lot of doors to endless possibilities for me and my career as a healthcare professional,” said Hawkins. “This experience will connect my undergraduate degree to my postgraduate goal of earning a master’s degree to address health inequalities here in America, like the disparity in healthcare literacy among African Americans and low income populations.”
Hawkins’ chosen study abroad program, KIIS Tanzania, provides a practicum that features hands-on and observational experiences in settings like hospitals, HIV clinics, community settings, and orphanage homes. He will study alongside future nurses, doctors, social workers, and healthcare administrators, providing the opportunity to bridge the gap between different to create a more proficient and equitable healthcare system.
The Gilman-McCain Scholarship is open to military dependents who receive any Title IV federal financial aid at the time of application or during their study abroad program or internship. Eligible federal financial aid includes Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized and Perkins loans, plus Federal Pell, Supplemental Educational Opportunity (SEOG), and TEACH grants, as well as the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program.
Hawkins encourages every eligible student to explore international study despite any doubts they have. “I was afraid to put myself out there, and I almost missed the chance to take advantage of the opportunity, even though it was within reach,” said Hawkins. "I didn’t want to have any regrets after graduating; I wanted to apply and see if I could get the funding to make it happen.”
To seek funding for study abroad, Hawkins worked with Lindsey Houchin, Assistant Director of the Office of Scholar Development (OSD). “I was hesitant because I didn’t know where to start or what the process would be like,” he said, “but OSD is patient and shows you the step-by-step process for everything from finding an option to finding the funding to make it possible.”
OSD mentors students applying for national scholarships to fund “academic extras” beyond what tuition covers. By doing so, OSD helps Hilltoppers make more possible by increasing access to study abroad, research, professional experience and more. Since 2008, WKU students from all majors and backgrounds have earned nearly $6.5 million in nationally competitive scholarships with support from the Office of Scholar Development.
Hawkins, a first-generation college student who transferred to WKU from a community college, is grateful for the resources he has utilized to create a community of support on campus. “WKU opened a lot of opportunities for me to become a better person and professional. In the two years since I’ve been here, I’ve pursued my full potential and explored areas of my life I never thought I would be able to at such a young age,” he said. “For that, I’ll be forever grateful. I’m better than I was yesterday. I’m a better man because of WKU.”
Hawkins is a Spirit Master (official student ambassador) and a member of Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity, as well as a member of Order of Omega and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies. He currently serves as a Navigator Coordinator and Student Government Association Senator for the Intercultural Student Engagement Center, and he serves on the Gordon Ford College of Business Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Off campus, he works at an assisted living facility as a resident assistant.
Long before coming to WKU, though, Hawkins was a member of the military community; his father is an active-duty service member in the U.S. Army.
“Seeing my dad go to all these places through his deployments pushed me to have the same vantage point, serving others and bettering our country,” he said. “Other dependents like me can push toward that through the Gilman-McCain Scholarship, too. I am excited to show my family and younger siblings I can pursue my goals through study abroad, all while our family balances my dad’s deployments and being away.”
The Gilman-McCain Scholarship is one of several OSD-supported national scholarships, many of which are a great fit for veterans and military-affiliated students, as well as their families. WKU’s first Tillman Scholar, Chris Sawyers, now an Air Force veteran pursuing a legal career in child advocacy, also worked with OSD.
Kent Johnson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, leads WKU Military Student Services, which provides personalized support to ensure the success of military, veterans, and dependents. Their work includes connecting students to resources and wrap around support services that can address their needs and support their goals. "The Office of Scholar Development has played a key role in assisting our military connected students as they navigate the process of applying for nationally competitive scholarships, like Gilman-McCain, Pat Tillman, and others," said Johnson.
"Given their proven track record of support, we can refer our students to OSD with the confidence to know that they will receive personalized, experienced, and competent support," Johnson said. "We know that OSD will help our students grow their skills and give them the tools that will help them in the future to be more competitive.”
Hawkins encourages all interested students to apply for OSD-supported scholarships, no matter what their second thought or fear is. “Put yourself out there and apply for the scholarships—you never know what the end result could be and where it could take you. Explore as much as you can while you can, especially while you have the resources we have at WKU. You’ll find endless possibilities for how to build yourself as a professional toward your goals.”
“This could be you as well," Hawkins said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s where you’re going.”
About the Office of Scholar Development: The Office of Scholar Development team mentors students applying for national scholarships for “academic extras” beyond what’s covered by tuition, such as study abroad, research, professional experience, and more. From first drafts to final submissions with multiple revisions in between, OSD helps students make more possible regardless of their major or means. By conceptualizing and revising the stories they tell in application essays and interviews, students better understand their strengths, interests, and purpose—and explore multiple possible pathways to that work.
About the Gilman-McCain Scholarship: The Gilman-McCain Scholarship is a congressionally funded initiative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and named after the late senator John S. McCain from Arizona. With the support of the U.S. Congress, this scholarship honors the Senator’s legacy of public service by enabling children and spouses of active or activated United States military personnel to develop the leadership and career readiness skills and global perspective to pursue careers of service and contribute to preserving the principles and alliances that are critical to an international order based on the rule of law, human rights, and democracy.
Contact: Lindsey Houchin (email@example.com)
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