OSU pilot program provides opportunities for Beavers beyond the dam


El Guo

Photo illustration depicts a passport being handed over by someone wearing an Oregon State University hoodie on May 29. Currently the program “Get a DAM Passport!” is open to 50 first-year and transfer students in the College of Agriculture or the College or Forestry.

Nino Paoli, News Reporter

First-year and transfer students in the College of Forestry and College of Agriculture Sciences, you can Get a Dam Passport! – for free, in fact. 

That is, if the FAFSA you filled out determines that you’re Pell-grant eligible. Otherwise, while plans to extend this program to other colleges at Oregon State University are developing, there is no clear timeline on them just yet.

The Get a Dam Passport! program funds and assists new students with significant financial need in getting a passport for the first time, aiming to make study abroad opportunities more accessible and feasible.

The OSU National and Global Scholarships Advising office joined the Institute of International Education Passport Project, which provides funding for Pell grant-eligible college students to get a passport for the first time. 

LeAnn Adam, the director of National and Global Scholarships Advising, partnered with the College of Forestry and College of Agricultural Sciences to submit a proposal to the OSU Internationalization Grant program for additional funding of Get a Dam Passport!, which was accepted this spring. 

“The goal of the program is to encourage more students to consider education abroad experiences,” Adam said. “Something like a passport is a big enabler towards thinking about doing another opportunity like study abroad or an internship abroad.”

Adam encourages students in the program to apply for a Gilman Scholarship as well, which helps fund study abroad endeavors for students with high financial need.

Adam said that the program is meant for first-year OSU students – whether that be freshman or recent transfer students – so that those who receive funding from Get a Dam Passport! will have time to plan a study abroad experience during their time at OSU. 

This pilot program allows 50 students to get a passport. Adam plans to allocate the remaining funds to 10 more students by the end of spring term. Additional eligibility criteria are as follows: current students in the College of Agricultural Sciences or Forestry, U.S. citizens 18 years of age or older and students receiving or eligible for a Pell grant. 

“Studying abroad, until this point and this offer, seemed a distant dream I’d have to continue to put off time and time again,” Féithleann Schmidt, an Ecampus fourth-year majoring in botany, said in an email. “Now, it’s becoming a reality.”

Schmidt said she’s wanted to get a passport, but that the process is expensive, especially as a working student with a family. 

“It’s very hard to justify choosing to get your passport over putting groceries in the house or paying rent,” Schmidt said.

An aspiring doctor of acupuncture, Schmidt plans to travel to China to study a culture where acupuncture is “intensely rooted,” and gain knowledge on medicinal herbs and plants from an emic, or internal, perspective. 

Though Schmidt said the paperwork needed to obtain a passport are riddled with hyper-specific rules regarding things like proof of identity and citizenship, the Canvas course Adam provides to students in the program simplifies and streamlines the process.

“It’s really important to me for students to feel supported in the process of applying for a passport, so I put together a Canvas course,” Adam said. “It’s really short, but it just gives simple tips for how to apply for a passport.”

Third-year fisheries, wildlife, and conservation sciences Ecampus student Mindy Buckner said the Get a Dam Passport! program enables her to complete her degree. 

“In order to graduate, I have to have two internships,” Buckner said in an email. “Now that I will have received a passport due to this wonderful opportunity, I can venture out and find my calling. An example would be a sea turtle conservation internship in Costa Rica.” 

Buckner has also wanted to get a passport in the past, but was unable to because of how expensive the process is.

“I’m so excited about getting my passport soon,” Buckner said. “This was very important because this helps me to finish school and to be able to achieve something that I have worked so hard for.” 

Though the program is only available to eligible students in the College of Forestry and the College of Agricultural Sciences, Adam is looking to expand this program university-wide in the future. 

“This is the first time anyone at OSU has ever done this,” Adam said. “I’m really hoping that OSU will provide funding to make this a sustainable long term project.”

Schmidt said she’s very appreciative of this opportunity. 

“I cried when I saw I was selected to have my passport funded,” Schmidt said. “The value to me is innumerable … I’ve never traveled outside of the country, and I’ve not traveled around the country much either. This feels like a dream come true, honestly!”

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