Skip to main content
Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI Chinese Flagship students earn international scholarships to study in China

Media Contact: Brian Pernicone, 401-874-7245

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 11, 2015 – Three University of Rhode Island Chinese Flagship Program students are among more than 100 American undergraduate students from 69 colleges and universities across the country selected to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The scholarship program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and supports study or internships abroad.


Quang Le, a junior Chinese and electrical engineering student from Cranston, R.I., Lariah Maynard, a sophomore biology and Chinese major from Groton, Conn., and Grayson Hoover, a freshman Chinese major from Providence, R.I., will study in China for eight weeks this summer.

The award was an unexpected honor for all three recipients, who uniformly said they thought the scholarship was out of their reach.

“I didn’t think I would get it. It was definitely a shock and surprise,” Maynard said. “I was really nervous about paying for the trip so, before I heard the news, I found a job this semester as a veterinary lab assistant to help pay for it.”

Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. Le earned the Critical Need Language Award, worth a total of $8,000.

Le, Maynard and Hoover will attend their summer session in China with the goal of achieving advanced proficiency in Mandarin, an essential step in preparation for their Flagship Capstone Year in China.

Maynard, who spent two weeks studying in China last year, acknowledged that spending time immersed in Chinese culture eased any worries she might have had about her trip this summer.

“It’s really important to get immersed in the culture because when you’re talking to a native speaker, there are things you can’t learn in books,” she said. “Things like ordering food, bargaining with street vendors – they’re all important lessons to get you ready for your capstone year.”

During the capstone year, students will spend a semester taking classes within their major (conducted entirely in Chinese), as well as language classes, followed by a four- to six-month internship with a Chinese organization specific to their career goals.

Le, a native of Vietnam who emigrated to the U.S. 10 years ago, hopes to parlay his computer engineering and Chinese skills into a U.S. government job after college.

“There are a lot of careers that require both sets of skills, and I will have an advantage because I can go over there and speak the language,” he said.

Hoover, whose intense interest in language and Asian culture guided him to URI’s Chinese Flagship program, said he’s looking forward to using those language skills in China. It certainly will be an eye-opening experience for the first-year student who said a two-week high school trip to Japan is the only time he’s been apart from his family.

“This will definitely give me the advantage of experience by spending an extended period of time there,” Hoover said. “This will be my first real immersion in the Chinese culture and language. I’ve never been fully immersed in another culture like this since it’s only my second time outside the United States.”

The award is named for Congressman Gilman, who retired in 2002 after serving in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chairing the House Foreign Relations Committee. The program aims to increase diversity among the pool of students who study and intern abroad and the countries and regions where they go.

Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages, and economies — making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.

“Study abroad is a special experience for every student who participates,” Gilman said. “Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also 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.”

The program is administered by the Institute of International Education. The full list of students who have been selected to receive Gilman Scholarships is available online.


The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ mission is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations. In an effort to reflect the diversity of the United States and global society, bureau 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 bureau programs, initiatives, and achievements, visit Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The Institute of International Education is the world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1919, the Institute is the world’s most experienced global higher education and professional exchange organization. IIE has a network of 19 offices worldwide working with more than 1,200 member institutions and over 6,000 individuals with a commitment to the internationalization of their institutions. The Institute designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government and private sources. These programs include the Fulbright and Humphrey Fellowships administered for the U.S. Department of State. The Institute is a resource for educators and institutions worldwide IIE, publishing the Open Doors Report and operating IIE Passport and Study Abroad search engines for study abroad program and study abroad scholarships. For more information, please contact Lindsay Calvert, director, Gilman International Scholarship, at 832-369-3481 or lcalvert@iie.org.