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Above: Dave O’Connor ’14 in Rosso, Senegal, with members of the Lo
Below: College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80 and Ramon
Blanco, president and CEO of Santander Bank, shake hands after
signing the grant renewal agreement.

Santander extends PC study and service grant agreement for 7 years

In the last two years, Providence College’s Dave O’Connor ’14 has been to six countries on four continents. He’s developed a passion for photography, learned about immigration and big-city problems, and created videos so families in Rhode Island and Senegal could communicate.

In January, the public and community service studies major will hit the road again, returning to South America to visit Nicaragua on a service-learning assignment as part of a spring-semester course, Supporting Community Literacy Practices in Rural Nicaragua.

The common denominator in all of O’Connor’s travels is grant funding, provided by Santander Bank, N.A.

O’Connor (Franklin Square, N.Y.) was a featured speaker at a signing ceremony marking the renewal of a long-term agreement between the College and Santander Universities, a division of Santander Bank, N.A. Under the seven-year commitment, Santander will continue to provide study abroad diversity and global service-learning grants to PC students like O’Connor who otherwise might not be able to afford to study abroad.

In the first three years of the partnership, more than 200 students took advantage of Santander grants and traveled to 26 countries as part of individual, group, or class projects. The new agreement means up to 500 students will study and serve abroad, estimates Adrian G. Beaulieu, dean of international studies, who termed the renewal “a great help to us in making these opportunities available to more students.”

“The grants assist so many under-represented students go abroad,” he said. “Many of these students have high need, and in nearly all cases, they could not have afforded this opportunity without a Santander grant.”

The Study Abroad Scholarships for Under-Represented Students range from $2,500 to $5,000 and assist students with direct costs of studying abroad or related expenses such as airfare, visa arrangements, and inoculations.

The Student Global Service-Learning Grants can be up to $3,000 for individual students or higher to support group or class projects such as the trip O’Connor is taking to Nicaragua with classmates and faculty in January.

Currently, five students are studying abroad this fall or for the entire academic year through grants provided by Santander. Among the group, Aubrey Moore ’15 (East Haven, Conn.) is undertaking study in Amman, Jordan, this semester and in Haifa, Israel, in the spring. The other students are in London and Dublin. Santander grant applications for additional study abroad assistance for spring 2014 are being reviewed.

Investment partners

At the signing ceremony, College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80 told the gathering of PC and Santander staff that he values the partnership with the bank. 

“Providence College shares a great relationship with Santander. We both believe in the importance of education. We are very grateful Santander has chosen to invest in our students,” said Father Shanley.

He recalled his own study abroad experience in Fribourg, Switzerland, as a history major. He described it as “transformational,” saying he learned to think differently and gained an understanding of what it was like to be an American in a foreign country.

Roman Blanco, president and chief executive officer of Santander Bank and Santander Holdings USA, emphasized the bank is deeply committed to higher education. In fact, Santander supports approximately 800 colleges and universities globally.

“We have a long-standing belief that the best way to invest in the future is to invest in education,” he said. “Santander is delighted to continue our partnership with a highly-respected institution such as Providence College … one that plays an important role in shaping the minds of our future leaders.”

Also speaking were John M. Sweeney, PC senior vice president for finance and business/chief financial officer, and Dr. Hugh F. Lena, PC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Running with opportunity

At PC, few students have been impacted as extensively by Santander support as O’Connor, who showed photos of his international experiences during his remarks. With the help of a Santander grant, he took a service-learning trip to Ecuador in spring 2011 with other students in the Visualizing Peace and Justice course. The focus was on art, specifically photography, and how it can create and enhance relationships.

While in Ecuador, he developed an affinity for photography. He contributed to an art exhibit later in the semester and, in the fall, took an independent study in photography.

During the spring 2013 semester, O’Connor topped his Ecuador experience with a Santander-aided excursion that started in New York City and continued in India, Senegal, and Argentina in the “Cities in the 21st Century” program offered through the School for International Training. The highlight of this experiential learning journey was his stay in Senegal where, through his skill with photography and video, he brought images and messages from members of the Lo family of Providence to family there.

While in Senegal, he also recorded interviews with Lo family members to bring back to their Providence relatives and even arranged an international phone call for them. O’Connor left the country overwhelmed with satisfaction and gratitude.

“The Providence College-Santander relationship is much more than a chance to go abroad, to challenge oneself, and to learn about our global community,” he said. “This relationship brings people together. It has encouraged innovation by removing the burden of finances so that students, such as me, can truly be in the moment.”


— Charles C. Joyce

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