BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — Three West Virginia Wesleyan College students have been named 2019 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship recipients, increasing Wesleyan’s Gilman Scholarship total to seven over the past 10 years.
This year’s recipients are Clarksburg native Alexander Bradley-Popovich, an applied physics and political science double major and mathematics minor, Wirt County’s Caitlin Cottrell, a political science and international studies double major, and Marcus Larrson, a political science and history double major from Solna, Sweden.
As part of the scholarship, each will travel abroad this summer and complete service projects upon returning home.
Larrson plans to participate in the Peace and Conflict Studies program in Lake Victoria Basin in Rwanda and Uganda through the Gilman program. Bradley-Popovich is heading for study in the Czech Republic, and Cottrill will travel to Jordan.
“I was searching for a program at the beginning of the semester, and I kind of wanted something different,” Cottrill said. “Marcus and I were talking, and we kind of just wanted to pick something that set us apart as far as in our career as poli sci students. I was looking at Africa a lot and just couldn’t decide, so I started looking in the Middle East. That’s when I found Jordan, and I just kind of fell in love with the culture and the opportunities there it could hold.”
Currently a sophomore at Wesleyan, Cottrill is taking a course is Israeli and Palestian relations. What she’s learned through the course, she said, has made Jordan and its people very attractive for her summer travel.
“When I was looking into Jordan, Jordan takes in a lot of Syrian and Palestian refugees, and they keep their borders open, but the country itself is very poor,” she said. “That that reminds me a lot of West Virginia and what I see here in West Virginia as far as the people. They give and they give and they give, and sometimes they don’t have a lot to give, and it’s really a beautiful thing.”
The application process for the prestigious Gilman Scholarship was quite extensive, including two written essay components.
“One was basically on why you wanted to go to the country of your choice, and the other was on a follow up service project, which the Gilman requires in order to scholarship,” Cottrill said. “When you return from your study abroad, and a lot of times that’s using your new perspective or your new knowledge, and re-communicating it to your community back home and your campus at your college and just doing things like that.”
Cottrill said the college’s study abroad adviser, Professor Tamara Bailey, was a great help through the process, as she attended a Gilman workshop over the summer, learning the many facets of the application process and what it takes to get accepted.
Cottrell, who holds a 3.95 cumulative GPA, is an active participant in the College’s Center for Community Engagement. As a Wesleyan Service Scholar, she completed 94 hours of community service in the fall of 2017 and 75 hours last spring.
“That goes so much further than just so those hours,” she said. “You make connections in the community, and it makes those relationship between Buckhannon and Wesleyan so strong, and it’s just offered me so many opportunities.”
Her primary service site was as a Team Leader for the WE LEAD Poverty Reduction team.
“We organize advocacy events in Buckhannon, and we do a lot of community dinners and fundraising for the local Parish House, and last year I volunteered at the Literacy Volunteers of Upshur County, and I got to work a lot with books and tutors who tutor adults who need help,” Cottrill said.
Last summer, she was hired as an AmeriCorp volunteer for the West Virginia Energy Express program.
“I worked with the West Virginia Energy Express program here in Wirt County, which was really awesome because I got to give back directly to my community,” Cottrill said. “I just saw a lot of growth in the children I worked with, and it was just a really good experience.”
Cottrell is a member of Alpha Delta Pi social sorority, Alpha Lambda Delta honorary, and Kappa Mu social science honorary, and treasurer of Panhellenic Executive Council.
While she’s now very active at Wesleyan, Cottrill admits she was torn between WVWC and WVU when applying to college as a high school senior.
“My mom was friends with an alum from Wesleyan, and she was like, ‘You just need to try and visit,’ so I visited first and fell in love with Wesleyan,” she said. “It was so personal and the one-on-one with the professors and staff was just really what I was looking for, and honestly it’s what put me in position to go study abroad and get scholarships like the Gilman.”
Bradley-Popovich holds a 3.95 cumulative GPA and has service as an active volunteer at ARC at Harrison County and with the West Virginia Shriners to raise awareness for children’s healthcare services. He is also involved with West Virginia DeMolay and West Virginia Wolf Political Action Committee, a non-partisan organization promoting campaign finance reform.
Bradley-Popovich was elected State Master Councilor of West Virginia DeMolay in 2017-2018 and Chevalier of DeMolay, the highest honor available for active members. He is also a member of Alpha Lambda Delta and Sigma Pi Sigma Physics honor society. Bradley-Popovich was awarded a NASA Undergraduate Affiliate Fellowship in 2016.
Larrson is a member of the Wesleyan men’s basketball team and transferred to Wesleyan from Virginia Military Institute. He has been actively involved in service projects at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church and the Literacy Volunteers of Upshur County. He is a member of Phi Sigma Alpha political science honorary and Black Student Union.
He plans to participate in the Peace and Conflict Studies program in Lake Victoria Basin in Rwanda and Uganda through the Gilman program. Larrson is a native of California and moved to Sweden with his family.