Two College of Ag Sciences students win prestigious scholarships

January 28, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- While Mount Nittany still is shrouded in snow, Brianna Isenberg, a junior in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, is on the other side of the world for the spring semester, enjoying the warmth of a New Zealand summer.

The Indiana, Pa., native is studying animal science at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand. While studying abroad has its challenges, especially financial, Isenberg is feeling a little less pressure thanks to the funding she received from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program.

The prestigious Gilman Scholarship was designed to ease the financial burden of studying abroad for American college students. Recipients receive up to $5,000, with the average award being $4,000, making the Gilman a very rewarding scholarship program.

By allowing more students to travel abroad for international study, the scholarship, awarded by the U.S. Department of State, is intended to better prepare students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world, according to the scholarship website.

Last year, 2,900 students applied for 850 awards from the national scholarship. Five Penn State students received the award -- two from the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Samantha John, a junior in the Community, Environment and Development major, was the other. Within that major, she is pursuing the International option, specializing in Spanish. A native of Boyertown, Pa., she has traveled to the School for Field Studies in Costa Rica, where the program starts on Jan. 31. After graduation she hopes to work in the Peace Corps.

Isenberg grew up with livestock on her family farm. After visiting the University Park campus as a high school student to attend the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Agricultural Sciences in the summer of 2007, she chose Penn State, settling on the Animal Sciences major.

"I saw all that Penn State had to offer and knew that it was the right choice for me," said Isenberg. As a freshman, she decided to explore studying abroad. "I'm always ready for a new adventure -- there's no better adventure than studying abroad for a semester!"

Her decision to study in New Zealand was influenced by a combination of the low language barrier and the country's rich sheep-production heritage. "Lincoln University offers quite a few classes that focus on sheep production," said Isenberg. "And sheep outnumber people in New Zealand -- another plus."

She is joined by seven other Penn Staters studying at Lincoln this semester, four of whom are in the College of Agricultural Sciences. While no Penn State faculty members are there currently, she still has contacts there, thanks to Larry Muller, professor emeritus of dairy science, who has traveled to New Zealand several times.

"This really speaks to the widespread influence of our professors and their expertise," Isenberg said.

While she's there, Isenberg wants to get a sense of agricultural issues from a New Zealand perspective. "I want to learn how other countries feed their populations and educate consumers about the importance of agriculture," she said. "I hope that I can apply this insight to how I view and approach agriculture when I return home."

Isenberg credits Penn State's study-abroad program for helping her realize this opportunity. "Part of being a Penn Stater means taking advantage of all the university has to offer," she said. "We have an excellent study-abroad program with options to go to many countries."

While some students cite the costs of studying abroad as a concern, she doesn't see that as a barrier. "An important part of our study-abroad program, especially within the College of Agricultural Sciences, is that the program works to make studying abroad an affordable option for all students.

"There are many scholarships available for students -- from both within and outside of the college and university -- to help defray the additional cost associated with study abroad, the Gilman Scholarship included."

As for her plans after graduation, Isenberg plans to focus on animal nutrition. "I like feeding the animals that feed our people," she said. "I love learning, and I can't wait to learn all that New Zealand can teach me."

  • Brianna Isenberg, a junior in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, is on the other side of the world for the spring semester, enjoying the warmth of a New Zealand summer.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated March 21, 2011