Alex Morales.
<br>Photo by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs

VCU student awarded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship

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Alex Morales, a sophomore fashion merchandising student at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, will study in Italy this semester with support from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.

“In Europe, fashion is everywhere,” Morales said. “It’s such a global industry. It brings people together, nations together.”

It’s such a global industry. It brings people together, nations together.

Morales will study at the European Institute for Design (Istituto Europeo di Design) in Florence, and plans to take advantage of every formal and informal opportunity to develop his fashion industry sense.

Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. Students work with the VCU Education Abroad office and the National Scholarship Office to develop competitive applications.

After taking fashion classes in high school, Morales, a native of Alexandria, Virginia, decided to pursue a career in the industry. He was drawn to VCU by the city atmosphere and arts program.

“I’m passionate about it. I’m enjoying every minute of it,” Morales said. “I love drawing connections between fashion and sports, fashion and music. A lot of these industries are intertwined.”

“I feel like in Italy and in Europe in general, I can learn something about the industry I may not learn here in the states,” he said. “They have a different perspective and appreciation over there. I want to bring what I bring to the table to them. It works both ways.”

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program supports undergraduate study abroad and was established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000. This scholarship provides awards for U.S. undergraduate students who are receiving federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study abroad programs worldwide. The scholarship program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Institute of International Education.

“The Gilman Scholarship will provide Alex the opportunity to do what few of his peers will do during their time in college,” said Stephanie Tignor, director of study abroad in the Global Education Office. “It is more important now than ever for students like Alex to study abroad and serve as unofficial ambassadors of our institution and nation, to learn from others and to bring that knowledge back to our community.”

Morales also thanked the National Scholarship Office, part of the VCU Honors College, for assistance with planning his trip.

Morales follows in the footsteps of seven students who earned Gilman scholarships and traveled abroad during the fall semester. He hopes the trip will help him succeed in the field and provide for his family in years to come.

“That’s a huge deal to me,” he said.