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Two Loyola Students Receive Gilman Scholarships

By Loyola University on Thu, 01/23/2020 - 15:10

Two first-generation students from Loyola University New Orleans have received prestigious Gilman Scholarships that will help fund their study abroad this year. Loyola juniors Shelby Pojawa, of New Orleans and Hackensack, N.J., and Sierra K. Bailey, of Metairie and Slidell, La., stand proudly among seven Louisiana students selected from among 1,413 students from 427 colleges and universities nationwide to receive the high honor. They join the ranks of the nearly 30 percent of Loyola New Orleans students who study abroad at some point during their undergraduate careers.

“We are extremely happy that Shelby and Sierra are able to participate in these amazing opportunities,” said Wyatt Boykin, study abroad advisor for Loyola. “We love the Gilman because it helps to fund life-changing programs like these for students who never thought they would be able to study abroad. In fact, nearly half of all Gilman recipients are first-generation students.”

The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program funds internships or study abroad programs for undergraduate Pell Grant recipients. Since 2001, the Gilman Scholarship has enabled more than 31,000 Americans to study in 151 countries, representing diverse backgrounds including ethnic minority students, students with disabilities, and first-generation college students. Many Gilman Scholars point to their experience with the Gilman Scholarship as a pivotal point in their lives, significantly impacting their academic and career goals.

Pojawa, a sociology major with a concentration in social justice and equality, will study this spring at the University of Amsterdam, where she will pursue coursework in gender studies and advanced sexualities. For her research, Pojawa, who aspires to become a clinical sexologist, will look closely from a sociological perspective at the legalized sex work happening in Amsterdam’s Red Light District and consider Dutch laws and policies and how they affect Dutch society. Progressive Dutch laws allow sex workers to hold sex work as a legal profession, with government-regulated standards and ensured access to resources such as health care.

“Gaining this first-hand knowledge would allow me to come back to America and translate the laws and ideas into a campaign to destigmatize sex work in the United States,” Pojawa said. “I am eager to work toward better legal rights, safety precautions, and regulation for American sex workers and Dutch laws are an amazing model to learn from.”

At Loyola, Pojawa works with the Women’s Resource Center as a programming board member and artist. She is a peer mentor with the First in the Pack program for first-generation students. She also serves on the Student Justice Board and is a member of the Students against Sexual Assault and Plus student organizations on campus.

Loyola junior Sierra K. Bailey, a music education major with a concentration in sopranos, will spend four weeks this summer studying through a summer partner program at Maynooth University, just outside Dublin, Ireland. As a future music educator, she intends to discover more about Ireland’s history of music and traditional folk songs of the region and help her students understand the importance of respecting other cultures. Through creative writing and history courses, she will study Ireland’s rich cultural past and present as she writes to complement beautiful, historical music.  She will prepare a presentation and assemble a small concert that includes Irish folk songs to share with middle and high schoolers when she returns home.

“Through studying abroad, I can expand my perspective of the world around me and the many diversities that it holds,” Bailey said. “I’ve always wanted to study in another country and apply my musical knowledge and compare it to the music of other cultures.”

The next deadline to apply for a Gilman scholarship for study abroad programs in summer 2020 or the 2020-2021 academic year is March 3, 2020. If you are interested in the Gilman scholarship for Study Abroad, learn more at, visit, and get in touch with the Center for International Education (