College of Ag Sciences students receive Gilman grant for international study

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two students in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Janelle Answer and Justin Kurtz, have received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

The Gilman Program, offered through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, enables students to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to national security and economic competitiveness. This year’s awardees can use their grants for travel in 2021 or for a virtual international experience.

Answer, of Riverdale, Georgia, is a senior majoring in veterinary and biomedical sciences. She plans to use her scholarship to complete an online theory course and volunteer for Umkhondo Big-5, a wildlife conservation organization in Garden State, South Africa.

“Not only will I gain hands-on experience in my field, but this scholarship grants me the opportunity to make a difference in wildlife and marine conservation,” Answer said. “Having been raised in Jamaica, this experience also will give me a chance to live, breathe and think on the continent, a true gift and privilege to African diasporas. Through this experience, I will be able to do something that I absolutely love and find immensely fulfilling.”

At Penn State, Answer is a member of the Pet-Vet Club and Caribbean Student Association and is active in equine research. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, launch a skin care company and work with nonprofit organizations in Jamaica to empower young Jamaicans and persons of Jamaican diasporas.

Kurtz, of Spring Mills, is a junior majoring in agricultural and extension education. He plans to use his grant to learn more about food and water insecurity through a TeachAg! immersion experience, which involves travel to countries such as Nepal, Malaysia and Belize.

“Times may have been tough for my family in earlier years, but I never worried about where my next meal would come from or whether the tap water was safe to drink,” Kurtz said. “The luxury of food security was bought for me by the hard work of my parents and through the actions of individuals desiring to foster desirable situations for others. The Gilman Scholarship is a gateway for me to pay that forward in an international way.”

At Penn State, Kurtz is involved in the Literacy, Education, and Agricultural Development Society and the Agricultural Student Council. His plans include becoming a high school agricultural educator or an environmental educator.

“I want to congratulate Janelle and Justin on being named Gilman Scholarship recipients — we are so proud of their accomplishments,” said Ketja Lingenfelter, assistant director for student global engagement for the college. “The importance of global engagement and education is evident now more than ever. These students realize the value of international understanding not only for their future careers but also for their life experiences.”

More information about international experiences for students can be found at

Last Updated September 03, 2020