NOVA Student, Jose Alvarez Receives 2021 Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship

January 28, 2021

Mr. Jose Alvarez, a student at the Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale Campus, has been selected as a 2021 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship recipient. This prestigious scholarship will allow him to study abroad during the summer 2021 session. The Gilman Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and is supported in its implementation by the Institute of International Education (iie). Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000—or up to $8,000 if also a recipient of the Gilman Critical Need Language Award—to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs.

NOVA Student, Jose Alvarez Receives 2021 Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship

Since the program was established in 2001, over 1,300 U.S. institutions have sent over 33,000

Gilman Scholars of diverse backgrounds to 151 countries around the globe. 

The late Congressman Benjamin Gilman, for whom the scholarship is named, served in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chaired the House Foreign Relations Committee. When honored with the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2002, he said, “Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views but adds an enriching social and cultural experience. It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”

Jose Alvarez joined the U.S Navy in 2013 with the hope of serving his country and getting stationed in Japan. Fate intervened, as he was the only person from his cohort to be stationed in Japan. After leaving the Navy, Alvarez enrolled at NOVA to pursue an associate degree in liberal arts with a focus on communications and continuing his studies in Japanese. With the Gilman scholarship, Alvarez will return to Japan during the summer 2021 session, where he will participate in an internship focusing on international business and continue his journey to fluency in the Japanese language.

Alvarez, a first-generation college student, hopes to transfer to George Mason University upon graduation in spring 2022. His long-term goal is to continue serving his country, this time, as a diplomat. The mission of a U.S. diplomat in the Foreign Service is to promote peace, support prosperity and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad. His experience in Japan will provide much needed experience to support his future goals. 

“When I decided to apply for the Gilman scholarship, I was dreaming big,” said Alvarez. “To me, this scholarship is a steppingstone towards a career in the Foreign Service. My hands-on experience abroad will prove indispensable as a diplomat. NOVA students can rest assured that studying abroad is possible and can open so many doors, no matter the career field.”

The Gilman Scholarship targets students who have been historically underrepresented in education abroad, including but not limited to first-generation college students, students in STEM fields, ethnic minority students, students with disabilities, students attending HBCUs or other minority-serving institutions and students attending community colleges.

Already a student ambassador at NOVA, upon returning, Alvarez hopes to share his experience with the broader NOVA student community to encourage others to pursue similar experiences. His fluency in social media platforms including YouTube, will allow him to share his experiences virtually. 

“We are very proud of our latest Gilman Scholar Jose Alvarez,” said Dr. Syedur Rahman, associate vice president of International Education and Sponsored Programs. “This opportunity will garner more experience for his future as a diplomat,” said Leeza Fernand, associate director, “historically, less than 3% of community college students have the chance to study abroad, compared to the 16% of university students who get this opportunity. NOVA’s last Gilman scholar was in 2017. Our office continues to work to gain access for students to many incredible international opportunities.”

NOVA’s Office of International Education and Sponsored Programs works with students to select programs that match their needs, to then submit the scholarship materials and to offer guidance throughout the application process. Any NOVA student has the potential to study abroad and to gain international academic experience, allowing them to be competitive with their university counterparts in the ever evolving and globalized job market.

NOVA’s Office of International Education and Sponsored Programs is dedicated to guiding students in their study abroad experiences. To learn more about the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, and other international opportunities, contact Leeza Fernand, Associate Director, Office of International Education and Sponsored Programs at The next Gilman Scholarship application deadline is coming up! Apply by March 2, 2021!

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site,

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) mission is to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, professional and private exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programs. These exchange programs improve foreign relations and strengthen the national security of the United States. ECA programs, funding, and other activities encourage the involvement of American and international participants from traditionally underrepresented groups, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities. Artists, educators, athletes, students, youth and rising leaders in the United States and more than 160 countries around the globe participate in academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges. For more information about ECA programs, initiatives, and achievements, visit

The Institute of International Education ( works with policymakers, educators and employers across the globe to prepare students and professionals for the global workforce and equip them to solve the increasingly complex challenges facing our interconnected world. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 18 offices and affiliates worldwide, and over 1,300 member institutions.

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