UT Student to Explore Cultural Crossroads with Scholarship

Published: Nov 25, 2008
For University of Tampa sophomore Erin Dumas, globetrotting is a way of life. In just the last few years, the international and cultural studies major has spent time in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

As this year’s recipient of the UT Honors Program’s Timothy M. Smith Inspiration Through Exploration scholarship, Dumas plans to spend next summer on Europe’s eastern edge, exploring Greece and Turkey.

The visit to Turkey carries with it a somewhat personal purpose for Dumas. Her older brother, a member of the U.S. Army Rangers, was recently deployed to the Middle East. The trip, she says, is an opportunity for her to get a sense of his life in his current surroundings.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to travel throughout much of Europe already,” Dumas said. “But much of my experience has been to countries that are more developed.”

In her application essay, Dumas explained to UT’s Faculty Honors Committee that Turkey represented a “crossroads” of cultures, between east and west. She intends to explore Istanbul and Athens as well as, time permitting, Crete and the other Greek Islands.

Dumas plans to pursue a career in a health-related field, specifically a job related to health care in developing countries. A long-term goal has been to join the Peace Corps to work in AIDS education in Africa. This past summer, she worked as an intern for a health-based education program geared toward parents and teens in her hometown of Portland, Maine.

“Having that experience and seeing the need for public health on the local level solidified my need to work internationally,” Dumas said.

The Timothy M. Smith Award is given annually to a UT Honors Program student to fund travel during the summer to virtually any destination worldwide. Students who win the highly competitive award receive $2,500 and are required to compose an essay detailing the experience upon their return to the United States.

Dr. Stephen Blessing, chair of the Faculty Honors Committee and assistant professor of psychology, said Dumas has had a well thought out proposal of how she wanted to use the award.

“She demonstrated a passion for travel and desire to learn more about the cultures of the world,” Blessing said.

While Dumas has been a world traveler throughout her life, her recent series of excursions began even before she enrolled at UT. As a high school student, she spent time at an American boarding school in Paris, France. Later, in her senior year, she joined a student exchange program that sent her to Tasmania in Australia for several months. While there, she befriended fellow students from countries throughout the world, including Italy, which she later visited as well.

Dumas chose to attend UT, in part, because of the many opportunities the school offers to study abroad.

Her trip to Greece and Turkey will follow a planned journey to Buenos Aires, Argentina, that scheduled for the spring semester. The Argentina trip is part of a UT Study Abroad program and will help Dumas complete a Spanish minor. She also earned credit toward her major from an Honors Abroad trip to Japan.