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The David A. Plastino Scholars Program

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What is the David A. Plastino Scholars Program?

Where might your dreams take you? Plastino scholars have gone to over 30 countries . . .and some stayed right here in the U.S. (one even biked from coast to coast!).Have a look at a video that shows places Plastinos have been.

The Plastino Scholars Program was established in 2007 by a gift from UD alumnus David A. Plastino to help outstanding University of Delaware undergraduate students realize their dreams by supporting them in self-designed, off-campus learning experiences that create a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.

The grants provide funds that make a transformational difference in the lives of Plastino Scholars and enable them to pursue a passionate interest to a degree not otherwise possible.

The David A. Plastino Program awards study grants to selected undergraduate students who exhibit extraordinary talent, promise and imagination. 

Normally, around four to six Plastino Scholars will be awarded each year. In 2018, four projects were funded. The amount of each award will depend on the nature of the experience proposed. Except in unusual circumstances, the maximum individual award will be $6,000.

Any undergraduate student at the University of Delaware may apply provided that, at the time of application, he or she is enrolled for at least twelve semester hours and has not completed more than five semesters. 

The rule of thumb for determining your suitability to apply to the Plastino program is to determine if you will be returning to campus as a student after your Plastino experience. Seniors who are graduating this academic year are therefore not able to apply.

Plastino Scholars serve as "Plastino Ambassadors" after they complete their experience, bringing their knowledge back to the University of Delaware community when they return, and therefore, only returning students are eligible

What is your passion? The 2018 Scholars Traveled to Four Continents to Realize Theirs
 Dave Plastino, Olivia Mann, Drew Sanclemente, Daniel Schaefer, President Assanis

The 2018 Plastinos pictured with Dave Plastino (far left) and President Assansis (far right).

The 2018 cohort of Plastino Scholars (from left):

Olivia Mann, an honors art history and history major from Long Island, New York, visited Holocaust museums and memorials in the U.S. next Winter Session to investigate the nuances of Holocaust and genocide education in rural, predominantly Christian areas.

Drew Sanclemente, an honors exercise science major from Middletown, Delaware, traveled to Tanzania, Africa, to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and then spend 10 days with non-government organizations to learn about the impact of sexual and physical violence on women in Tanzania.

Mickey Nguyen, a neuroscience major from Philadelphia, spent two months in a Buddhist orphanage in Vietnam to study mindfulness.

Daniel Schaefer, a linguistics and Spanish major from Middletown, Delaware,  traveled to Greece, to study Judeo-Spanish.

Plastino Scholars informational sessions

In the summer of 2012, Plastino Scholar Liz Hetterly traveled to 

Dhaka, Bangladesh, where she studied maternal health and the

high rate of mortality among women during and after delivery. 

Her research was conducted in one of the world's premier 

sites for researching women's health in the developing world.

In the fall semester of each academic year, a series of informational meetings will be announced for students who are interested in applying for the program. At the meeting, students can learn more about what kinds of projects might qualify for Plastino awards and can meet with previous Plastino Scholars to learn about their experiences. Students will learn more about preparing their proposed budgets, an essential part of the application process. 

Successful Plastino applicants also report that they used all the tools and information available to them, seeking out professors and mentors who can help them find the resources and connections which will strengthen their proposals.

2019 Plastino Scholars Information Sessions: 

October 15, 7pm, Gore 204

October 31, 7pm, Gore 204

This year's application deadline is December 7.

How are Plastino Scholars selected?

Drew Sanclemente, Plastino '18, traveled to Tanzania to conduct research while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. She had to travel light. Everything she packed is pictured here.

In order to be chosen as a Plastino Scholar, a student must present convincing evidence of exceptional intellectual, creative, civic or leadership ability through the application materials, written recommendations and a personal interview before the Scholars Selection Committee. 

The student must propose an experience that will allow the pursuit of a passionate interest that goes well beyond the scope of an academic course, normal summer job, internship or enrichment program. Seeking support for an internship which is offered by organizations which regularly provide such opportunities to volunteers may not qualify for a Plastino award; the key to being considered for a Plastino Scholar award is that the proposed project is self-designed and unique.

In short, to become a Plastino Scholar, a student must demonstrate:

  • Exceptional ability and promise in some realm of endeavor that is within the University's mission to foster
  • A compelling commitment to that endeavor
  • The imagination and resourcefulness to plan an experience likely to permit the expression of that ability in a way and to a degree not otherwise possible.

 Finalists are notified in mid-February.

A successful Plastino Scholar proposal

​​​2017 Plastino Scholar Kira Smith traveled to China to 

research international adoptions at the orphanage from which she had 

been adopted 20 years earlier. Her trip to China allowed her to study 

the factors that support and hinder international adoptions and to learn 

more about the culture of her native country.

Students who intend to apply for a Plastino should give considerable time and thought to their proposals. Plastino Scholars are generally outstanding communicators; this quality should be reflected in their application.

All proposals must include a 250-word abstract of the proposed experience, detailing the nature of the project, the location, and the duration.

All proposals must include a longer narrative of no less than 1000 words which explores the project in full, demonstrating the degree of knowledge the student has about the proposed experience and its objectives.

All proposals must include a detailed budget demonstrating that the student has thought out all expenditures related to the proposed experience, including such things as airfare, housing, costs for daily living such as food and transportation, visas and vaccinations. All Plastino scholars who will be travelling to international locations must include the cost of international health insurance (and are required to use the policy provided by the University of Delaware's Institute for Global Studies). More information on budgets is provided at the informational meetings held in the fall. Students should be prudent and realistic in preparing their budgets. (To help determine appropriate costs for their travel and housing, use a good budget-travel guide.)

Students must also provide two letters of recommendation; one must be from a professor.

For more information and an application form see How to Apply​.​​


​Watch the documentary that Plastino Scholars from 2012, Jill Farquharson and Katie Yoder, made from the interview footage they took on their road trip to "find the voices of America."


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