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Student studying in Costa Rica thanks to scholarship

RELEASED: April 22, 2010

EAU CLAIRE — A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire junior from Edina, Minn., is learning Spanish and a lot about the culture of Costa Rica thanks to a scholarship that made a study abroad trip possible.

Michon Pagitt, a social work major with a Spanish minor, is studying Spanish, history and environment along with 13 other UW-Eau Claire students in San Isidro De Heredia, Costa Rica. She received the James Alexander International Study Abroad Scholarship, which made the opportunity to study abroad a reality for her.

James Alexander
James Alexander

The scholarship was established through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation by Karen Alexander in memory of her husband, James Alexander, who was an associate professor of geography at UW-Eau Claire and served as adviser for international studies. Alexander was a Fulbright lecturer in Sweden before joining the geography department at UW-Eau Claire in 1966. He taught cultural geography and directed the study abroad program from 1974-86. Alexander died Dec. 16, 2008.

The scholarship is intended to give UW-Eau Claire students with great interest and potential but limited financial resources the chance to pursue study abroad opportunities.

"With the help of this award, I have been able to travel more and grow more as I have learned about new places and people," Pagitt said. "It has helped open my eyes to a different way of living."

Pagitt is living with a host family and recently completed a two-week service trip assisting an indigenous people, the Bribri tribe. She also will visit Nicaragua.

"I would like to tell my benefactor, Karen Alexander, that the scholarship in memory of her husband is changing lives and creating opportunities for people who otherwise might not have had any," Pagitt said. "I would like to tell her that she has changed my life, and I admire her generosity."

Students who have been accepted for study abroad through the UW-Eau Claire Center for International Education may apply for the scholarship by submitting a letter, faculty recommendations and a transcript to CIE. Financial Aid Office staff members can provide information about financial need, which is a major requirement of the scholarship. The office can be reached at 715-836-3373.

For more information about applying for the scholarship or setting up a new scholarship, contact Kelly Olson, scholarship coordinator in the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, at 715-836-4045 or olsonke@uwec.edu.

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KH/AH/DW

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