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On the 100K Strong Foundation's website, a photo of Western Illinois University senior Joe Ellison—who is posed in front of The Bund, a famous waterfront in Shanghai—appears with his comment about his time studying and living abroad: "My experience in China has affected me in that I feel that I am more independent and mature from experiencing a foreign culture. I also feel that my social skills have improved getting to meet new people all the time. When I return home I feel motivated to work harder in classes after taking courses here and seeing how serious education is taken in China."


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Joe Ellison, a WIU senior studying accountancy, is pictured here during an excursion to Xi'an, one of the oldest cities in China, during his Fall 2012 study abroad program, which was funded by a Caterpillar Foundation Scholarship. His favorite part of that excursion was a visit to the site of the Terracotta Army, funerary art buried with the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.

"I can remember learning about the Terracotta Army back in high school, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to see them in person," Ellison said.

Caterpillar Foundation Scholarship Enables Student to Be Part of 100K Strong Initiative

March 22, 2013


MACOMB, IL – Thanks to the Caterpillar Foundation and Western Illinois University's Office of Study Abroad, one WIU student's personal quest to learn more about the world and the global nature of business has been realized. In turn, Joe Ellison's study-abroad experience in China last fall is one step toward the realization of the 100K Strong Foundation's mission. According to the non-profit organization's website, its mission is to "expand and diversify the number of Americans…studying abroad in China."

Ellison—a senior from Hamilton, IL, studying accountancy—is currently featured on the 100K Strong Foundation's website as one of the American students contributing to the 100K Foundation's goal "to bridge the gap between cultures, strengthen the U.S.-China economic and strategic relationship and enhance global stability." (see http://100kstrong.org/2012/12/04/joseph-elliso/)

Ellison said he had a wish to study abroad from the time he started at Western in August 2009. In Fall 2012, his wish was granted via the Caterpillar Foundation Scholarship. The company's scholarship donation totaled $91,500 and was utilized to fund study-abroad programs (from August-December 2012) for six WIU students pursuing major areas of study (accountancy, computer science, engineering, engineering technology, finance, information systems, marketing, network technology and supply chain management) in WIU's College of Business and Technology. For Fall 2013, three additional Caterpillar Foundation Scholarships have been awarded, and in Spring 2014, three more will also be available.

"My freshman year here I was very interested in studying abroad, but after pricing a semester abroad, I realized it was not in my best interest financially. So when I heard about the scholarship provided by Caterpillar to spend a semester in China for virtually no cost to me, I contacted Western's study abroad office immediately to apply," Ellison noted.

On the 100K Strong Foundation's website, a photo of Ellison—who is posed in front of The Bund, a famous waterfront in Shanghai—appears with his comment about his time studying and living abroad: "My experience in China has affected me in that I feel that I am more independent and mature from experiencing a foreign culture. I also feel that my social skills have improved getting to meet new people all the time. When I return home I feel motivated to work harder in classes after taking courses here and seeing how serious education is taken in China."

Along with improved social skills and a renewed motivation to do well in his studies, Ellison has brought home with him cherished memories of his travels and activities in Shanghai and the region in which he studied.

"One of the most memorable experiences I had while there was an excursion to Xi'an, one of the oldest cities in China and home to many of the most important dynasties in Chinese history. Our tours through the city consisted of seeing various museums of the dynasties held in Xi'an, the Terracotta Warriors, Wild Goose Pagoda, Huaqing chi (Hot Spring) and venturing out into some of the markets," he said. "My favorite part of the Xi'an excursion was getting to see the site of the Terracotta Army, which consists of four separate pits of terracotta warrior sculptures. In 210 B.C., the first emperor of China wanted to be buried with an entire army, so he ordered the construction of more than 8,000 life-like sculptures of soldiers. The underground army was discovered in 1974, and the excavation is still in progress, which was fascinating to see. I can remember learning about the Terracotta Army back in high school, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to see them in person."

Ellison's study-abroad experience appears on the 100K Strong website as a result of his completion of a U.S. Department of State questionnaire he completed. According to WIU Office of Study Abroad Assistant Director Emily Gorlewski, the Caterpillar Foundation awarded the scholarships to several universities as a result of the 100K Strong initiative suggested by U.S. President Barack Obama and Former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Gorlweski said prior to the Caterpillar Foundation Scholarship, there was no funding mechanism in place for Western students to take part in 100K Strong. She noted contributions from private business, such as Caterpillar, made the money available for the Ellison's, and his fellow WIU students', study-abroad opportunities.

"This scholarship opportunity is unprecedented here at WIU, as far as I know. We are so excited to be able to offer this to students, and the students we have awarded the scholarship have been exceptional," Gorlewski added.

"This scholarship led me to fulfilling my dream of getting to spend a semester abroad, without overextending myself financially," Ellison added. "Spending a semester on the other side of the world, away from family and friends, resulted in me having to step outside of my comfort zone and build relationships with all new people. After spending time in Shanghai and experiencing another culture, I have a better grasp of the global nature of the world of business, too, and I can't wait to put these experiences to use in my future career as an accountant."

For more information about WIU's study abroad opportunities, contact Gorlewski at (309) 298-2504 or via email at EJ-Gorlewski@wiu.edu. Visit the WIU Office of Study Abroad online at www.wiu.edu/studyabroad.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg, University Relations
Phone: (309) 298-1993 * Fax: (309) 298-1606