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UW-Eau Claire Student Receives Full Scholarship,
Becomes Second to Sail on The Scholar Ship

RELEASED: Dec. 6, 2007

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is well represented in a new international study program that brings students from diverse cultural backgrounds together to create a "transnational learning community" aimed at developing intercultural competence.

Nhia Vang
Nhia Vang

Sophomore Nhia Vang, Wausau, was recently notified that she will receive a full scholarship of $21,935 to participate in the January 2008 voyage of The Scholar Ship, an experiential-based program that integrates travel and education as students travel by sea from country to country over a 16-week semester. While on board, students participate in a variety of themed learning circles and study global issues and intercultural communication. Port programs include shore excursions, field and community service activities, and independent travel.

The Scholar Ship will leave from Hong Kong Jan. 2 with 600 students, faculty and staff aboard. Over the next four months, it will make stops in China, Thailand, India, the Seychelles, South Africa, the Cape Verde Islands, Spain, Turkey and Portugal, docking finally in Amsterdam, Netherlands, April 19.

"There were only two awards of this size given out nationwide, one in the fall and one for this spring, so it is pretty impressive that a student from UW-Eau Claire won," said Bruce Ouderkirk, director of Student Support Services. "Any student participating in a Student Support Services or McNair Program was eligible to apply, and that is over 200,000 students."

Vang participates in the Student Support Services program at UW-Eau Claire, which is one of the Federal TRIO programs that work to make higher education accessible to students whose parents do not have a college degree, students from families of limited income, and students with disabilities. She received the award through the Council for Opportunity in Education and The Scholar Ship. The COE is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that works in conjunction with colleges, universities and agencies that host the federal TRIO programs to help low-income Americans enter college and graduate.

Vang also is a student worker in the SSS office, and she received a recommendation letter from Ouderkirk, who described her as mature, considerate and congenial to her fellow students and engaged with her peer community through activities such as the Midwest Campus Compact Citizen Scholar Fellowship Program and in the larger community through her work at Bolton Refuge House.

Carri Orrison, manager of admissions services for The Scholar Ship, said Vang was "a standout candidate" for all those reasons, as well as her dedication to furthering cultural understanding and her demonstrated leadership potential through her participation in the Hmong Youth Leadership program and her work as a mentor for new freshmen.

"All the above, combined with the fact that she came to the United States at age five, not speaking English, and then entered UW-Eau Claire as a first generation/low income student, makes her an ideal candidate for the environment we hope to foster on The Scholar Ship," Orrison said.

The inaugural voyage of The Scholar Ship took place this September, and junior Julie Wright, a UW-Eau Claire geography major from Eagan, Minn., sailed from Piraeus, Greece, to join the first group of approximately 300 students from more than 35 countries to study on The Scholar Ship. Wright was among a group of students offered $10,000 to help cover the costs of the trip. She will return to UW-Eau Claire in the spring semester with plenty of stories to tell about her visits to Portugal, Panama, Ecuador, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, China and Hong Kong.

Vang, who has not yet declared a major but said she is leaning toward political science, said she could hardly believe it when she got the letter about her award.

"My parents were kind of in shock," said Vang, "and at first they thought four months was a long time for me to be away, but they have gradually gotten used to the idea and are now supportive."

Vang said she isn't more excited about any one particular destination over the others on her itinerary.

"I am really just looking forward to seeing everything and meeting everyone and getting the most I can out of this experience," Vang said.

The Scholar Ship is a collaborative initiative between seven universities throughout the world. University of California-Berkeley is the U.S. academic steward for the program. For more information on The Scholar Ship, visit www.thescholarship.com.

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NW

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