Scholarship to Support International Study

Milagros Peña and Frederick Hamann establish fund to enable undergraduate study and service-learning abroad

Milagros Peña

Milagros Peña

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The experience of international travel and study is life-changing, whether it shapes careers or fuels personal growth.

Milagros Peña, dean of the UC Riverside College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS), and her husband, Frederick Hamann, a professor of physics and astronomy at UCR, believe so strongly in the transformative power of international study that they have pledged $25,000 to launch the CHASS “At Home in the World” Student Award Fund.

The scholarship will be awarded each year to support international learning opportunities for undergraduate students with CHASS majors. The scholarship takes its name from the CHASS motto, “At Home in the World.” Though the initial awards will be modest, Peña said she hopes to grow the fund to a level that will help many students pursue these experiences.

Peña, a native of New York City, said an opportunity to visit Mexico as an undergraduate at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., shaped both her view of the world and her career as a scholar of social movements, Latino/a sociology, and the sociology of religion in Peru, Mexico and the U.S. She holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in sociology from the State University of New York at Sony Brook, and an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

“I was exposed to other perspectives,” recalled the sociologist, who joined UCR in fall 2015 as dean of the largest college on the campus. “It allowed me to reflect on the country I was born in. It allowed me to be a bit more critical, and a bit more understanding of other countries and cultures.”

International experience not only enriches what students learn in their undergraduate majors, it also impacts their future trajectory, the dean said.

“If they work in the business world, they can contribute to a workplace in terms of cultural understanding,” she explained. “If they’re going to graduate school, it would help them become much more critical thinkers and develop certain kinds of skill sets.”

As an educator, Peña said, she looks “for the moments where – particularly for first-generation students – there is a turning point that either encourages students in their career, or is important to them as they later articulate how they got to where they are. There’s nothing more profound about what you can learn within your major than when you take yourself out of your comfort zone and explore your major through the eyes of another experience.”

Like a majority of UCR students, Peña was the first in her family to go to college. The financial reality of international experiences can be overwhelming and discouraging for many students, she said.

“I knew my family could not afford to put me through college, and anything beyond that was going to be beyond their means, so I had to really, really think about how I was going to get the funds together,” she recalled.

Financing an international experience is not as difficult as it at first seems, she added. “I think that if you plan for it well in advance, you could save for it, little by little, and before you know it you’ll have the funds to be able to make it happen.”

The CHASS “At Home in the World” scholarship will give students greater access to international experiences, and richer, more diverse education, she believes. The experience can be an internship, a service learning project, an independent study, or a short-trip learning opportunity with a faculty member who has a project abroad.

Ultimately, her desire for students is to give them the opportunity to gain “knowledge of other cultures and experiences in other cultures, and to be someone who can graduate with a real sense of more than just the world in which we were born in and grew up in, but knowing more about the world that we’re part of, beyond these borders called the United States.”

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
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Additional Contacts

Milagros Peña
Tel: (951) 827-2762

Launa Wilson
Tel: (951) 827-4365

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