Southern Miss student receives grant to study in France


The honor society Phi Kappa Phi recently awarded 25 students nationally a study abroad grant worth $1,000.

Phi Kappa Phi is an honor society for college students around the nation, supplying grants designed to aid undergraduates striving toward academic success. Every year, Phi Kappa Phi inaugurates nearly 30,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni into its society, which has over 300 chapters throughout the nation.

Christiana Whitley, senior international studies major, is a recipient of the award. With her minor in French, Whitley is set to study abroad in Paris and will use the grant to support her traveling opportunity. In the spring, Whitley will study at École Superieure du Commerce Exterieur in Paris.

She exceeded the requirements of receiving the grant, as applicants are required to maintain a 3.75 GPA to compete. The Phi Kappa Phi chapter at USM allowed Whitley to be fully qualified for the grant.

Whitley’s French professors submitted recommendation letters on her behalf, and she then wrote a personal statement about how she would use the grant in the event she received it.

“I am so grateful to receive this grant,” Whitley said. “It means so much to me, and I feel so honored.”

Robyn Curtis, director of national scholarships at USM’s Honors College, mentored Whitley throughout her application process and explained details of the grant. Curtis is not only the national scholarships officer, but also an awards coordinator for Phi Kappa Phi.

“She also reviewed and suggested edits to my personal statement, and I am thankful that she was available to guide me through the application process,” Whitley said.

Curtis is enthusiastic about the award and what it means for recipients.

It is very rewarding and exciting to see students receiving an award that I received myself and to be part of that tradition,” Curtis said.

Whitley believes studying abroad will help her gain confidence as a world citizen.

“I see international travel as a conduit for funneling knowledge of customs and traditions that are unfamiliar to me,” Whitley said. “(I) hope to push past my comfort zone every chance I get.”

Whitley hopes to one day pay her reward forward by donating to scholarship organizations so that students like her have the opportunity to cultivate their study abroad experiences.