Three FAMU students earn U.S. State Department Gilman International Scholarships

Special to the Outlook

Three FAMU students received Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to finance their studies overseas.  

Bryana Pittman, Laila J. Spinner, and Haley Wilson will be studying internationally funded by the U.S. Department of State program that enables students to study or intern abroad, providing them with skills critical to the U.S. national security and economic prosperity. The program is named for former New York Congressman Benjamin Gilman.  

Spinner, a junior biology/pre-med student, received the prestigious scholarship this spring. The graduate of Lincoln High School in Tallassee will participate in the SIT Study Abroad Program, as a Gilman Scholar, in Montespertoli, Italy, taking courses in food security and nutrition.  

“During my study abroad program, my main goal is to provide insight to students at Florida A&M University the opportunities and the possibilities to broaden our educational efforts,” Spinner said. “It is crucial to me to accomplish this goal as it is beneficial to our development as young adults to become culturally sound and take advantage of different opportunities during our undergraduate career. This opportunity means the world to me, and I am proud and excited to represent my organizations, my college, and Florida A&M University on a global level.” 

Spinner is a member of the National Society of Black Women in Medicine, Inc., Big Sister/Little Sister Mentoring Program, FAMU Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS), FAMU Section of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), and FAMU Physicians in Training (PIT).  

Wilson was awarded a Gilman Scholarship in fall 2021 and will travel to Florence, Italy, in fall 2022.  

The junior fine arts student from Augusta, Ga., paints, draws, sculpts and works in ceramics and clay. She is delighted to be heading to Florence, Italy, “the birthplace of the Renaissance,” to take classes at the Lorenzo De Medici Italian International Institute.  

“I want to grow as an artist and get those classical lessons and training, but most of all, I want to have experiences that most people wouldn’t get or even dream of having. I want to say I went to Florence, Italy, and saw Michael Angelo’s David and the Piazza del Duomo and just didn’t see it in books,” said Wilson, who credits Associate Professor Harris Wiltsher, facilitator of the Visual Arts Program, for encouraging her to apply for the scholarship.  

Pittman is well-versed in international travel opportunities. She was in Leon, Mexico, for an agribusiness competition as part of being awarded the Kirchner Food Fellowship in 2021. She is presently in Rome, Italy, studying data science for diversity in artificial intelligence. For her Gilman, she plans to travel to Japan in 2023.  

“As a Pell Grant recipient, it will help fund my education; that was the primary reason for me to apply for the Gilman Scholarship, but also, having the scholarship will push me out of my comfort zone because I have to do a service project,” Pittman said.  

Her service project is to give a presentation to Sabal Palm Elementary School in Tallahassee, which she attended before completing high school in Atlanta.  

“That’s where I got my foundation,” Pittman said of the school in southwest Tallahassee. “I just want to give back to my local community so kids there who don’t have access to opportunities can see the unlimited possibilities education can offer.” 

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