Getting the Gilman


The life of a college student is not unlike a circus, with school, work and social life sideshows.

Most people don’t feel like adding another item: applying to study abroad, let alone applying for study abroad scholarships.

Such was the case for Christine Manwiller, a senior art history major, when she thought about where she wanted to study abroad.

“I researched study abroad right when I got to UW-Eau Claire, and I found out about the Gilman then,” Manwiller said. “But I wasn’t really thinking about applying for it because I wasn’t receiving the Pell Grant yet.”

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, created to aid students who need monetary help to study aboard,  requires its recipients to have received the federally funded Pell Grant in order to win. This grant is eligilble for students who are low-income and in need of post-secondary assistance.

Eventually Manwiller became eligible for the national scholarship fund, applied for and received the $5,000 Gilman Scholarship. As a result, she is studying art conservation at Lorenzo de Medici Institute in Florence, Italy for the 2013 — 2014 academic year.

Manwiller said she has been getting to know Florence and has been busy because she is taking 18 credits per semester.

“Right now I have three different studio art classes,” Manwiller said. “One is ‘Drawing for Conservators,’ which consists of taking master’s paintings like Da Vinci, Raphael or Michelangelo and copying the precision of their work because as an art conservator, it’s your job to be faithful to their work.”

Associate professor of art history Karen O’Day has known Manwiller for three years and has had her in class at least once per semester, except for the semester O’Day was on sabbatical from the university.

“When people think of the art world, art conservation isn’t the first thing that comes to mind,” O’Day said. “People usually think of artists, and conservation isn’t often seen as a viable career, but it is, and it requires a tremendous amount of education in two very different disciplines.”

O’Day said Manwiller is the only student she’s worked with at Eau Claire with a professional goal of delving into art conservation.

Manwiller said one of her professors in Italy was involved with a conservation project that uncovered a few of Michelangelo’s sketches, and she was given the chance to look at them up close.

“It’s completely surreal to see the sketches of Michelangelo and realize he’s a human being,” Manwiller said. “It’s like looking into his mind.”

Manwiller said she also has aspirations to study abroad again after graduating by applying for the Fulbright Scholarship — a national scholarship that allows students to learn abroad.

Jeff Vahlbusch, the director of the university honors program, had Manwiller in class for the Honors 304 class he teaches, “Soul’s Journey.” He is also a 1987 — 1988 Fulbright recipient.

“Christine is a wonderfully thoughtful and creative person, and one of the interesting things about her is that she is incredibly interdisciplinary; she’s an artist, but she’s also a chemistry
minor,” Vahlbusch said. “Christine is completely at home in both of those places.”

Cheryl Lochner-Wright is the study abroad coordinator at Eau Claire and she said the Gilman Scholarship suggests the students who receive it also propose and create a follow-on project during their time abroad.

“The follow-on is a service project at the end of their grant period in which students share what they’ve learned abroad in some form — either with students on campus or from their hometown,” Lochner-Wright said.

Manwiller said her follow-on project involves submitting oil paintings she’s done in Italy to the newspaper from her hometown of Turtle Lake, Wis.

Vahlbusch said Eau Claire is a great place to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship. There is a committee that advises students in the process leading up to the application and interview process.

“We’ve had anywhere from one to six students in a typical term win the Gilman Scholarship,” Lochner-Wright said. “So far at Eau Claire we don’t have any recipients of both Gilman and Fulbright.”