When two USF students headed abroad to study this summer, their passport came in the form of a scholarship from USF President Judy Genshaft.
Christopher Smith, a senior majoring in French, and Thu Can, a senior majoring in English and biomedical sciences, were the first recipients of the Genshaft/Greenbaum Passport Scholarship, created by Genshaft and her husband, Steve Greenbaum, last spring.
Smith, who received $1,000 of the $1 million endowment to cover transportation and housing costs, spent July 4 to Aug. 5 immersed in French Canadian culture in Quebec, Canada. He said the trip allowed him to gain new perspectives on his own life.
“I learned a lot about life and about people on this trip, and it’s given me the tools to be a more confident and happy person,” Smith said. “That’s not something that can ever be taken away from me.”
Can, who studied abroad in Costa Rica this summer, declined to comment on this story.
Joel Momberg, senior vice president for Advancement and Alumni Affairs and CEO of the USF Foundation, said Genshaft and Greenbaum
created the scholarship to provide financial help to students interested in studying abroad – an experience Genshaft believes every student should have, he said.
“Such a personal gift from President Judy Genshaft and her husband speaks volumes about how passionate they are for the students at USF,” he said.
Smith, who learned of the scholarship through USF’s scholarship website, said he was sure he would use the award to study abroad in Canada.
“I spoke to (French Graduate Program Director) Dr. (Roberta) Tucker, and she told me that in order to finish my French degree when I wanted to – in the spring of 2012 – I’d need to go to the Universit Laval in order to take some classes and accelerate my studies,” he said.
The only requirement to apply for the scholarship is a written essay, said Sharon Hamisak, scholarship administrator for the USF Foundation. The best essays are chosen by an education abroad committee, she said.
Smith said he was as honest as he could be in his essay and wrote about how he taught himself to speak French and his dreams of one day teaching the language. As a result, he was enrolled in two classes at the Universit Laval, in Qubec – Qubcois Novel and Rdaction et Stylistique, or reading and writing, respectively.
“Whenever an organization or person, like President Genshaft, offers financial help to ease the financial burden of others, it is an opportunity that should be taken,” he said. “I remember thinking that I loved the idea (of the scholarship) because study abroad was something I had always wanted to do but was unable, due to financial limitations.”
Hamisak said the committee “looks for the most unique and interesting story,” when choosing scholarship recipients. The committee offers an estimated $5,000 maximum award amount per student, she said, but determines awards on a “case by case basis.”
She said the scholarship, which is offered every semester, first opened for students in February and had 190 applicants for the summer and 36 for the fall. There is no limit to the number of applicants per semester.