Sophomore English Major Bobbi Coffee Wins Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship

Sophomore English Major Bobbi Coffee Wins Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship

Three students in the WKU English Department were awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship this past semester. Western Kentucky English majors Bobbi Coffee and Eli Edens will study in the United Kingdom in Fall 2021. English minor Makayla Davis will also study abroad in South Korea in Fall 2021. English major Olivia Allen was recognized as one of the alternates for the scholarship.

Bobbi Coffee, one of the scholarship winners will participate in the British Studies program Harlaxton offers. Coffee, originally from Louisville, Ky., is a sophomore English major with a Literature concentration. The British Studies program is ideal for them because it focuses on literature and historical events that shaped Britain. They will also be taking classes on Shakespeare, so their studies fit in nicely with their Literature major.

Coffee, who has never been out of the U.S. or even on a plane, is excited for this opportunity. They look forward to the privilege of “immersing myself in someone else’s culture.”

Coffee recognizes their background in English helped when writing the required essays. “English allowed me to write a more professional and concise essay that would portray that I’m academically prepared to study abroad.” Coffee assumes their background in poetry may have made them stand out to the scholarship committee. “I feel that both my history with reading and writing poetry allowed me to tap into my vulnerable side for the “Personal Statement” section of the Gilman Scholarship.” Coffee emphasizes the importance of this section stating, “The Gilman Scholarship committee wants to know who you are and what you had to go through and do to get to where you are today.”

Coffee chose to study English because reading, and eventually writing, became an emotional safe place for them. Coffee grew up in the foster care system, so stability was hard to find most times. Therefore, to find comfort Coffee turned to reading and writing. “This lack of stability in my life caused me to seek solace within the stories I had grown to love. I’ve always felt this wave of serenity while reading. When I started to write, I felt even better because now I had my own made-up world that I could escape to. It only felt natural to major in English.”

Coffee’s career aspirations are still fluctuating; however, they know they want to end up in publishing or law. Regardless of career, they simply want to be “a role model or a beacon of hope for the community of children who grew up like [them]. It’s not every day that foster children get the opportunity to make it this far, so I hope that my journey will inspire not only foster children but inspire anyone to carry on through life.”

For students interested in applying for the Gilman award, Coffee suggests the guidance of WKU’s Office of Scholar Development. Coffee recognizes this achievement would have been difficult without the help of the OSD. “[They have] some amazing staff that are more than ready to be by your side on this journey.”


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