“I want to be an inspiration to my siblings and nephew so they know that they can go to college or study abroad. I will always be there to help them on their journey,” he said. “Studying abroad is important as our world is slowly coming closer together and we interact with vastly different people.”
Canon was Stout Student Association president for the 2019-20 academic year, for which he received the Outstanding Student Leader of the Year Award. He also received the Samuel E. Wood Medallion, the university’s highest nonacademic award for students.
“The Office of International Education is so incredibly proud and excited for Deon,” said Study Abroad Advisor Chela Cea. “This award reflects his academic, professional, and personal achievements, perseverance and adaptability in the face of changing conditions due to COVID-19.”
The Gilman Scholarship
Founded in 2001, the Gilman Scholarship is a government funded program run through the U.S. Department of State. The scholarship is designed to support students who have been historically underrepresented in studying abroad, including first-generation college students, students in STEM fields, ethnic minority students and students with disabilities.
The program has achieved the following:
- 47% of recipients have been first-generation college students.
- 65% of recipients have represented racial or ethnic minority groups.
- 33,000+ recipients of high financial need have received the scholarship.
- 150+ countries have been visited by recipients.
- 1,300+ U.S. institutions have been represented.
Applications for the Gilman Scholarship are currently being accepted, with a deadline of Oct. 6. Students wanting to study abroad starting in 2021, either in an in-person program or through a virtual program due to COVID-19, are encouraged to apply. Study aboard advisers are available to help.
The program application has a number of eligibility requirements. A few key requirements are:
- Must be a United States citizen.
- Must be an undergrad student who is receiving a Federal Pell Grant.
- Must participate in a study abroad program of at least three weeks.
“We hope Deon’s fellow Blue Devils are inspired by him and consider study abroad as a part of their education at UW-Stout, as a way to grow, gain experience and ultimately distinguish themselves as global applied learners,” Cea said.
Virtual study abroad options
Canon is studying through University of London’s Richmond College, and is enrolled in World Cultural History, learning about ancient civilizations in the stone, bronze and iron age, earning credit toward his applied social science degree.
When he learned his study abroad experience needed to pivot to a virtual setting due to COVID-19, he was initially sad and disappointed not to study in London in person. He also thought he would have to give up the Gilman Scholarship. However, the scholarship supports virtual, as well as in-person study abroad.
“I slowly accept things that happen for a reason,” Canon said. “It’s an amazing experience to go to another country or virtually interact with someone to make friends and network with people.”
Canon is completing his history course online while enrolled in on-campus courses at UW-Stout, and will graduate in December.
And while studying abroad in person is ideal for most, virtual study abroad has its benefits, Canon said, noting the financial benefits of not needing to pay for travel and other expenses.
Canon is adjusting to his schedule; living, working and studying in three different time zones. This is his biggest challenge. While he’s in Menomonie, in Central Standard Time, he’s working a virtual job as a Legislative Intern for Congresswoman Gwen Moore, following Eastern Standard Time. And his class in London is held in British Standard Time.
The time difference makes it difficult for Canon to connect synchronously with his London professor and peers, but he looks forward to joining the online social events created by his peer mentors, when his schedule allows.
“These are unprecedented and challenging times, but Deon’s accomplishment should serve as an example that even when faced with adversity, there are wonderful opportunities available. We are excited by the recent trend to engage in virtual international learning similar to Deon’s experience,” said OIE Director Scott Pierson.
Tips and learning more about the Gilman Scholarship
An informational session on the Gilman Scholarship will be held on Monday, Sept. 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. via Microsoft Teams. Students are invited to join to learn more about the scholarship and how it can support their study abroad experience.
Canon and Cea shared tips for UW-Stout students on applying to the program and encourage students to consider it in a recent video. Two essays are a large part of the application process and are key to the success of the application. The topics are an applicant’s Statement of Purpose and a Community Impact essay.
“Know that you are worthy of the scholarship, so applying is just the first step,” Canon said. “Find that willpower to do the two essays. Tell your story and just be truthful. Let the words flow. A lot of us have amazing stories that need to be shared.”
Students, faculty and staff can also learn more about available options to study abroad by joining OIE’s virtual Fall Study Abroad Fair in Canvas. The live, virtual fair will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 23, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. A session with a Gilman Ambassador is scheduled at 7:15 p.m.
Canon is coordinating an awareness campaign on social media for the Gilman Scholarship with Multicultural Student Services and Stout Student Services, creating posters and building resources to help students apply.
Other available study abroad scholarships
Study abroad advisers understand one of the biggest obstacles for students when it comes to studying abroad is cost. The Gilman Scholarship is just one of many available scholarships that support students’ travels.
The Gilman Scholarship opened an incredible opportunity for Canon who never imagined studying abroad was a possibility due to financial barriers.
“I want to desperately travel the world because it's something I never thought of doing as a child,” he said. “I think there is a lot of opportunities for me to travel in the future now that I have a passport. I do plan on visiting London in the future as I'm interested in their politics and how it's different or like ours.”
“The Office of International Education looks forward to supporting more students with interest in applying for the Gilman Scholarship, so they too can achieve their dreams and enrich their studies by engaging in powerful international learning that remains critically important and highly desirable by today’s global society,” Pierson said.