Four from University of South Carolina win Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships

January 26, 2009

COLUMBIA, SC – January 23, 2009 – Two undergraduate students and two graduates of the University of South Carolina have won Rotary International Ambassadorial Academic Year and Cultural scholarships. 

Sponsored by clubs in Rotary District 7770 and 7775, this year’s scholars will study in Ecuador, Mexico, Germany and Spain. Since the university’s Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs was established in 1994, 77 students have earned Rotary scholarships. 

Courtney Gibson, a political-science major from Columbia, graduated summa cum laude in May 2008 from South Carolina Honors College. She is working as a research assistant for the Consortium for Latino Immigration Studies, a research unit of the Arnold School of Public Health. She has been a volunteer mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters for the past three years, participated in Model UN and was an intern at the United States Mission to the United Nations in New York City. The department of political science named her the Outstanding Senior at Awards Day 2008. 

As a Cultural scholar, Gibson will spend three months in the fall of the 2009 – 10 academic year in Quito, Ecuador, studying Spanish at the Academia de Español. A Dutch Fork High School graduate, Gibson is the daughter of Michele and Paul Gibson of Irmo. 

Nicholas McIlvain Riley of Louisville, Ky., will study German as a Cultural scholar in the fall 2009 semester at Goethe-Institut Schwäbisch Hall in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany.  A McNair scholar, Riley is a member of the South Carolina Honors College, where he is vice president of the Honors Council, serves on the Honors Housing Building Committee and is active in the Waverly community. This past summer, he worked with orientation and will be doing so again this summer. 

A graduate of Ballard High School, he is the son of Deborah J. and James (Mike) M. Riley of Louisville.  

Jessica Lyn Silvaggio of Mauldin, a member of the South Carolina Honors College, is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism in the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. She is the recipient of the LIFE Scholarship and the university Dependent Scholarship as well as scholarships from the South Carolina Broadcaster’s Association, the School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department. On campus, she volunteers as a Peer Health Educator, is involved with the student legislature and works with both the Gamecock Leadership Society and the Carolina Service Council.  

Silvaggio will study in Spain in spring 2010 and then pursue a career as a medical correspondent for a national or international news agency. A graduate of Boiling Springs High School, she is the daughter of Tammy Chadwick of Boiling Springs and Paul Silvaggio of Mauldin.  

Emily Stanek of Germantown, Tenn., a May 2008 South Carolina Honors College graduate with a degree in sociology and a minor in Spanish, was named Outstanding Senior in Sociology. Her senior thesis, which focused on increasing volunteer involvement of university students in Columbia’s Hispanic community, led to her current position as director of the Coalition for New South Carolinians, a nonprofit immigrant’s-rights statewide advocacy network based in Columbia.

As an Academic Year scholar in Mexico, Stanek will work toward a master’s degree in public policy/public administration and focus on immigration policy. A graduate of Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, she is the daughter of Julie Stanek of Germantown and Bill Stanek of Memphis. 

The Rotary program, the world’s largest privately funded international scholarship program, advances international understanding and friendly relations among nations, cultures and geographical regions. The Academic Year scholarships, valued at $25,000, provide nine months of study abroad. Cultural scholarships, valued at $12,000, support three months of language study abroad. 

Rotary candidates were supported by the university’s Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs, established in 1994 to assist students for national fellowship competitions.  To learn more about national fellowships and competitions and view a complete list of the University’s Rotary scholars, visit