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What is the Benton Scholar Program?

By bentonscholars on April 16, 2013

The Benton Scholars Program was developed as a model for how a liberal arts education can be shaped to fully prepare students to think, act, and create in a world that is increasingly diverse and global.

Colgate University has a long and proud history of graduating students who lead in all aspects of their lives.  In the spirit of that great tradition, this program has been designed to infuse leadership and global themes into the Colgate experience by providing its members with activities and selected courses that will enrich and bring new perspectives to their experiences on campus and throughout their lives.

Each year, as part of it admissions process, Colgate identifies a number of applicants who, through past experience and/or expressed interest, have demonstrated the potential to focus with particular emphasis on the complex global issues that will challenge them not only academically as undergraduates but also professionally and personally once they have graduated from Colgate.

A carefully selected group of 15-18 First Year students are then invited to join a vibrant community of upperclass students who have already chosen to target their individual commitments and to expend their collective energies on raising the profile of global issues among their fellow students.

Throughout their four years at Colgate, Benton Scholars support and motivate each other as they develop into thoughtful, creative, and well-informed leaders both at Colgate itself and beyond the gates of the university’s campus.

Read more about the Benton Scholars Trips

Trip to South Korea
Trip to Argentina
Trip to India
Trip to China
Trip to Uganda

2015 Benton Scholars Travel to Uganda

By bentonscholars on April 16, 2013

“Historically, this has been one of the most contaminated water sources we have ever tested,” Professor Peter Scull mentioned as one of my classmates collected a sample from the murky stream. Suddenly we heard a joyous shout and turned just in time to see a small boy perform a cannonball directly into the middle of the stream. In a lot of ways this symbolizes the challenges encountered by the 2015 Benton Scholars on our trip to Uganda this past May. With Professor Scull, biology professor Frank Frey, and political science professor Tim Byrnes as our leaders, we visited Rwanda and Uganda with the primary intention of helping Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH) in Buhoma, Uganda conduct water testing and household sanitation surveys.water collection

After landing in Kigali, Rwanda and visiting Parliament and the Genocide Memorial, we faced a hair-raising drive north along the edges of cliffs to BCH in southwestern Uganda. We worked alongside the BCH staff for the next two weeks to devise and conduct household sanitation surveys across seven villages. In presenting our findings to the hospital, we hoped to provide the BCH staff with the data needed to plan and implement effective sanitation initiatives in the surrounding villages. Besides our hospital work we took several opportunities to play soccer against a few local teams, including an ongoing rivalry with Colgate FC based in Buhoma (they don former Colgate uniforms). After parting ways with our newfound friends at the hospital, we drove north to Queen Elizabeth National Park and then east to Kampala, where we met with Colgate’s expert on Africa President Herbst; there we discussed Uganda’s economic and social future with a number of business and political figures, including a high-ranking general, the Minister of Trade, and the owner of a coffee factory.

I can assuredly say that I was wholly impressed by the challenges we took on as a group and the lasting bonds we formed with people we met along the way (many of us continue to chat frequently with the friends we made via Facebook). My classmates showed a deep respect for the local culture, and our enthusiasm in conducting the sanitation surveys made the work all the easier in the humid equatorial climate. Although our work at the hospital comprised an invaluable portion of the experience, I believe some of the greatest opportunities to learn about and learn from the local residents came through service projects conducted separately from our hospital work.FC Colgate The Photo Project aimed to provide children at a local school and mothers at the hospital with pictures of themselves; a fundraiser conducted prior to the trip raised enough money to provide 4000 condoms to the hospital; and a soccer club in Massachusetts donated 90 pairs of cleats to the local soccer clubs.

Our journey was at the same time eye-opening and thoroughly enjoyable; we were able to come face to face with some of the starkest challenges facing this portion of the world, but the possibilities for improvement in health and standard of living have never been greater. Everyone we met along the way was excited about taking on these challenges, from the hospital staff to our faithful drivers to the political figures in Kampala. I am honored that the Benton Scholars class of 2015 so enthusiastically worked alongside Ugandans to tackle these problems, and we will strive to spread the message of Uganda’s bright future throughout Colgate’s ca  mpus and beyond.


Colin Shipley
’15 Benton Scholar

2014 Benton Scholars Travel to China

By bentonscholars on April 16, 2013

Beijing 409Yesterday, as I sat in a movie theater in Madrid, memories of my trip to China with the Benton Scholars Program after my freshman year came flooding back to me. Now, it may seem a bit odd that I would be sitting in a theater in Madrid contemplating such a travel but I assure you there was a reason. The new James Bond movie, Skyfall, has several scenes that take place in Shanghai, China. Upon seeing the skyline on screen I knew immediate where the scenes were shot, and I began to reminisce on the wonderful time in my life when I went to, what felt like, the corner of the earth.

Benton Scholars is a global leadership program that is intended to sharpen the liberal arts experience so that we are ready to take on a world that is increasingly globalized. Part of the program is attending a trip during the first year, which was a chance for us to apply in the real world what we had learned in our First-Year Seminar and our other courses. My class, the 2014 Bentons were required to take a history course — Modern East Asia — in anticipation of the trip.

The trip seemed otherworldly for most of us, simply because the majority of us had never travelled that far. After a 14-hour flight, the arrival in Beijing felt like the emergence from a dream. Throughout the trip we visited the regular, though anything but ordinary, tourist attractions such as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, Yenan (the city to which Mao made his march many years ago) and Xi’an, the home to the terracotta warriors. These sites were truly fascinating but what made the trip particularly unique were the special get-togethers with students, professors or organizations provided by the Benton program. For instance, we had a presentation from a Colgate professor who was also leading a study abroad program in China. She spoke to us about the social issues pertinent to China. We were also allowed to visit the headquarters of an organization that spearheads a movement to preserve traditional family homes called “hutongs,” which are in danger of being demolished. These homes are a symbol of the cultural richness of China. To top it all off, we were given a special tour of the United States and Korean embassies. Apparently, ours was the first American student group to ever visit the Korean embassy in China.

Beijing 728

We were also able to meet with several Chinese students who did us the honor of inviting us to see what their college experience is like. They showed us their dorms, their campus, and we even participated in a couple of classes with them. Before the trip to China we were given a student pen pal to email and get to know. During the trip we were able to meet in them person, and some of us still keep in touch with them though more than a year has passed.

Overall the trip brought us all a new sense of perspective and understanding of the world. Being ripped from our comfort-zones and thrown (though not forcefully, I promise) into a completely different environment made us all grow in ways that we may still have yet to discover. One thing is sure though, China has become a major player in world politics and will continue to be. As Benton Scholars we have been exposed to this mighty country, and we have begun a path of mutual respect and understanding with the people who live there that will hopefully carry forth. Indeed, China is no longer as mysterious to us but it is to many others, and we have knowledge to share with our fellow students and our communities. Plus, you know it was a good trip when every time anyone mentions China, you spontaneously yell “I’ve been there!”

Benton Scholars with Mao #2

Marilyn Hernandez-Stopp
‘14 Benton Scholar

2013 Benton Scholars Travel to India

By bentonscholars on April 16, 2013

It is the summer of 2012 and I find myself surrounded by children at a camp I work at back in Colorado. Droplets of sweat accumulate at the nape of my neck and a cacophony of children complaining about the heat is ringing through my ears. It is around ninety-five degrees outside but for some reason the heat and the noise do not faze me. I have become immune to heat. Why, you may ask. India. Rewind to the Spring of 2010. The pilot turns off the fasten seat belt signs and the false sense of cool that existed is turned off along with it. After collecting my single carry-on I make my way through the small aisle to the doorway. Every step I take, my clothes become more unbearable. I take one step out of the small twenty-person propeller plane onto the tarmac. Haley and FriendsBam! A wall of heat and humidity is waiting for me. “India” has physically welcomed me to its borders. Little did I know, this heat would transpire until I returned to that very seat. As our tour guide, Vikki, explained, “there are four seasons in India; monsoon, hot, hotter, and hottest. You are here during hottest.” Although this new “friend” would be with me throughout my journey across India, it seemed to disappear (with a few exceptions). The scents, people, experiences, food, and customs of this country made put the heat on the backburner. There would be times where you would be walking down the streets of Delhi or Chennai and the heat would begin to creep back on to your radar, but once again the fascination of being in India would make it disappear.

The most significant deterrent of the heat was the people of this country. For example, we were given the opportunity to spend a day at a local high school in the state of Kerala. Here, we shared customs and views on each other’s cultures. One of the girl’s that I still email today (her nickname was Kung Fu) made a bet with me. If I sang Jai Ho she would sing Taylor Swift. Just then, we became friends. It was instantaneous. Perhaps the most surprising and comforting realizations I came to on this trip was that we are all very similar despite our geographic locations and cultural differences. Each of us had pre-conceived notions of what the other would be like, and these were immediately disproven.

One of the craziest experiences we had occurred the first day we arrived in India. We were under the impression that we were simply going to tour a television studio. After going through security, however, we were casually informed that we were going to appear on television!! Our fearless leader, Tim Byrnes, was whisked away seconds after we entered the building to get makeup and hair done, while the rest of us had to make our debut on Indian television wearing our own perspiration and our personal characteristics of jet-lag. We were interviewed on how we participate in the governance of our country alongside Indian students who commented on their own political participation in their country. It was one of the most interesting things I have ever had the pleasure of going through.

Although our time in India did include these kinds of crazy pre-planned events, India had the greatest impact on me through the random encounters I made with everyday citizens. One of the moments that defined my trip occurred at the pinnacle of the heat wave of the “hottest” season. Tim, myself, and a small group of students decided to go on an exploration in Mahabaliporum, a historic town in the state of Tamil Nadu. We were taking pictures of one another in front of a “casual” grouping of monkeys when a small Indian family asked if we could take pictures with them. They then asked if the rest of their family could join. Like a scene from a movie, around fifty people soon made their way over to us. We were asked to take pictures with babies, grandma, kids, parents, and even grandpa (who was not very amused). These people were so open and willing to approach us and ask questions about our culture. This one experience left me feeling welcomed in a country where I was and outsider, where I was the minority. Although we were only in India for a short time, I felt that I had made a connection to every facet of the country. The Indian people are what made my experience and made this trip one of the most impactful times of my life.

India group

Haley Mirr
’13 Benton Scholar

2012 Benton Scholars Travel to Russia

By bentonscholars on April 16, 2013

As a member of the Benton Scholars Program in the Class of 2012, I traveled to Russia with Professor Timothy Byrnes and my fellow Benton Scholars for ten days between my freshman and sophomore year. This was my first international travel experience. I saw the sights of Moscow and St. Petersburg and spoke with a professor from Moscow University about the role of religion in contemporary Russian society. As a result of traveling in Russia, I learned first-hand the importance of understanding and appreciating diversity in order to successfully engage and work with people from an unfamiliar culture. This was the start of my journey in becoming a global citizen. I began to learn how nations interact, how the world perceives the United States, and the traits one must assume to become a leader in our globalizing society.

Boat in St PetersburgSt Basil's

Ellis Island

By bentonscholars on April 16, 2013


In 2010, a group of Benton Scholars traveled to Ellis Island in New York City to learn about the great importance it played in the history of immigration to the US.  They were accompanied on this trip by members of a local Hamilton group called “Lifelong Learners.”  Upon their return to Colgate. the Benton Scholars arranged to have Professor Nancy Foner of Hunter College come to Colgate and speak on her book “From Ellis Island to JFK: New York’s Two Great Waves of Immigration.”

Ellis Island

China in Africa

By bentonscholars on April 16, 2013

BrautigamIn early November 2012, the Benton Scholars classes of 2014 and 2015 brought Deborah Brautigam to campus. Deborah Brautigam, a professor at  Johns Hopkins University, is an expert on China’s growing influence in Africa and the author of “The Dragons Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa.” Professor Brautigam’s visit to Colgate University was a coordinated effort between the Benton Scholars class of 2014, who had traveled to China during the Spring of 2011, and the class of 2015, who traveled to Uganda and Rwanda the following year. These two class years believe that Professor Brautigam’s visit to Colgate brought a piece of their experiences in China, Uganda, and Rwanda back to Hamilton for the benefit of the entire community.

Forces Without Borders

By bentonscholars on April 6, 2013

In February 2012, a group of Benton Scholars traveled to Ithaca to attend a Cornell Law School Conference entitled “Forces Without Borders: Non-State Actors in a Changing Middle East.”New_Forces without borders pic

Energy Summit

By bentonscholars on April 6, 2013

New_energy summitIn the Fall of 2009, members of the 2013 class of Benton Scholars travelled to New York City to attend Colgate’s “Energy Summit.” Thomas Friedman, New York Times Op-Ed columnist and best selling author, was the keynote speaker at the event. Prior to meeting Friedman that day, all of the students had read Friedman’s Hot Flat and Crowded, and written papers on the book for their FSEM. Professor Timothy Byrnes sent Friedman several of those papers to read and the students he judged to have written the “best papers” were sent signed copies of the book by Friedman himself. Before returning to Hamilton that night, the class of 2013 attended another Colgate alumni event at which alumnus Joseph Berlinger screened his documentary “Crude.”

Innovation in NYC

By bentonscholars on April 6, 2013

New_DisruptionIn the fall of 2011, a small group of Benton Scholars spent the day in NYC meeting with Colgate alumni Craig Hatkoff and Jeff Fager.  Fager, the President of CBS News and Executive Producer of “60 Minutes” showed the group the CBS headquarters and led a discussion on the changing role of CBS and how technology is being adopted by the organization. Hatkoff, a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, hosted the group for lunch at his home for a discussion of “disruptive innovation” and the role that technology is playing in reshaping certain market sectors and creating new ones.  The group has maintained a continuing relationship with Hatkoff since that initial conversation and had a book discussion over Skype later that year.  In addition, a small group of Benton Scholars was able to attend the “Tribeca Innovator’s Award Ceremony” at NYU in the Spring of 2012. New_Fager pic New_Hatkoff pic