Campus student receives $20,000 scholarship to study in Mozambique

July 17, 2012

A Penn State New Kensington adult student earned a $20,000 federal scholarship for the 2012-13 academic year to study a foreign language abroad.

Gabriel Gardiner, a junior in the Organizational Leadership (OLEAD) program, was awarded a David L. Boren Scholarship to learn Portuguese in the Republic of Mozambique. Gardiner, 26, will study at Eduardo Mondlane University, the oldest and largest university in the southeastern African country. His two-semester course load comprises 30 hours of language training and two statistics classes.

“To quote King Charlemagne, ‘to have another language is to possess a second soul,’" said Gardiner, a native of Madera, Calif. “I have a strong conviction in the importance of learning another language. To speak to others in English, a language they understand, is important, but to speak to people in their own language is how you win them over.”

Boren scholarships provide undergraduate students the opportunity to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Sponsored by the National Security Education Program, the Boren initiative is designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. The selection process was rigorous as 1,014 undergraduate students applied for the Boren Scholarship and 161 were awarded. In exchange for funding, Boren recipients agree to work in the federal government for a minimum of one year.

In addition to the Boren award, Gardiner was selected as a Strategic and Global Security Scholar. Under the auspices of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State, the scholar program supports students who desire a career in government, the private sector, or in the Armed Forces, working on global, national, and homeland security issues.

After earning a business degree in Supply Chain and Information Systems at Penn State University Park, Gardiner decided on a career change and enrolled in the OLEAD program at the New Kensington campus. The four-year program is geared to adult students and serves a foundation of communication skills and strong attention to workplace-specific courses such as organizational leadership, industrial relations, employment relations, and ethics. The flexibility of elective courses and independent study opportunities was a draw for Gardiner.

“I have the freedom to take as many quantitative courses in mathematics, statistics, computer programming and economics as I desire, all of which contribute to the final degree.” said Gardiner, who is scheduled to graduate in 2014. “My independent study opportunity will be a research paper highlighting local media developments and contemporary political, social and economic concerns in Mozambique.”

With a focus on statistics, Gardiner plans to earn a minor in mathematics to complement his OLEAD degree. A strong math curriculum and dedicated faculty and staff provided additional lures to the campus for Gardiner.

“Penn State New Kensington has a world-class mathematics department,” said Gardiner, whose mother, a registered nurse, took nursing classes at the campus. “Everyone on campus wants to help students to succeed. From the fulltime professors and adjuncts to the maintenance staff to the chancellor to the librarians, they point us in the right direction.”

Upon graduating, he expects to continue his education and enroll in a master’s degree program in economics. Gardiner is preparing for a career in international public service. Employment options include U.S. Department of State, International Monetary Fund, World Bank or a lusaphone-based think tank. A lusaphone is someone who speaks Portuguese.

“I want to work in the capacity of nation building, to help countries build and improve their infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and dams,” said Gardiner, who currently resides in Lower Burrell. “To become an economist specializing in the lusaphone world of Africa and Latin America is my ultimate career ambition.”

Heading to a foreign country will not be a new experience for Gardiner. After earning his first degree, he travelled to the Philippines, where he spent 13 months in the Visayas Islands. During the building of a four-story hotel, he helped local natives secure employment and maintained communication with them at the job site. He returned to the United States in 2010.

Since matriculating at the campus, public service has been the hallmark of Gardiner’s community activities, both off- and on-campus. For the past year, he has interned at Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth (WEDIG), a nonprofit community development organization. He is president and founder of the Rotaract club, a campus service organization sponsored by Rotary International for people ages 18 to 30. He stays involved with Burrell Rotary service projects and plans to be active in the Maputo Rotary in Mozambique.

In keeping with his philosophy of helping people who need help, Gardiner was a part of a 14-person campus contingent that made its way to the Badlands of South Dakota in May for a service trip that served as a cross cultural exchange as well. Students, faculty and staff helped install computers at Native American social service agencies. In addition, the group worked with St. Joseph’s Indian School that serves children from the Lakota Sioux Nation.

“It was a history lesson, a cultural lesson, a lesson on geography,” Gardiner said. “One of the goals of Penn State New Kensington is to tie in the academic issues with real world issues and current issues.”

Gardiner’s intrepid journey to Mozambique commences in late August. The learning of the native language begins in early September.

  • Gabe Gardiner at Miagao Catholic Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iloilo, Philippines.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 24, 2012