Cast Your Vote to Help Mason’s Student Veterans Study Abroad

Posted: December 2, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: December 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm

By Catherine Ferraro

While experiencing foreign study is an opportunity that should be available to every student, this is not always the case, especially for student veterans who can’t cover the cost of studying abroad because of the financial limitations of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. In fact, of the 700 student veterans who were enrolled at Mason last year fewer than 5 percent of these students studied abroad.

To help make studying abroad more accessible and affordable to student veterans, Mason’s Office of Military Services and Center for Global Education (CGE) have joined forces in the hope of securing a $50,000 grant through the Pepsi Refresh Project.

Each month, Pepsi is giving away millions of dollars to fund “refreshing” ideas submitted by individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations whose aim it is to change the world. Throughout the month of December, anyone can vote for their favorite “refreshing idea.” The idea that receives the most votes at the end of the month will be awarded the grant money.

To cast your vote to help Mason’s student veterans study abroad, visit the website.

“Since the GI Bill cannot be applied to cover the costs of studying abroad, the funds from the Pepsi grant would allow Mason’s student veterans the opportunity to take advantage of this experience regardless of their area of study or socioeconomic background,” says James Miller, veterans transitions coordinator in the Office of Military Services.

“We hope to enrich the overall undergraduate student experience at Mason by making study abroad a more affordable option for our student veterans.”

As a recent Mason alumnus and veteran, James McDonough knows firsthand the difficulty of studying abroad. Last winter, McDonough planned to travel to South Africa through a CGE program, expecting to get his expenses paid for by the GI Bill.

“It was a very frustrating experience because the GI Bill does not cover the costs of studying abroad in the same way that it does if I was studying on campus,” says McDonough. “I was eventually able to use the GI Bill to cover the costs of the tuition credits, but all other expenses came out of my pocket.”

In the end, McDonough received a CGE Global Perspectives Scholarship to study abroad. While he doesn’t regret his experiences, he admits that since he couldn’t use the GI Bill to cover his expenses, the opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without this support.

The Office of Military Services and CGE plan to use the grant money to fund at least two student veteran long-term study abroad programs, award 25 student veteran scholarships of $1,000 over five years and invest in continued funding for student veteran programs.

For more information about the Pepsi Refresh Project and helping Mason’s student veterans study abroad, contact Miller at jmillh@gmu.edu or 703-993-2428.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu