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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 2019 and 2020, three 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 and not returning for the Fall semester 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.

Read about the 2020 Plastino Awardees here:   Current Plastinos

For more information, contact the Director of the Plastino Scholars Program:         

Dr. Patricia Sloane-White, or 302/831-2942

The 2019 Plastinos pictured with Dave Plastino (second from right).

The 2019 cohort of Plastino Scholars (from left):

Caleb Owens

Owens, an Honors student with majors in philosophy, history and English, spent a month in Estonia, primarily in the country’s capital, to explore the country’s e-governance system. He shadowed and interviewed government officials to further understand the technology and immersed himself in Estonian society to gain insights on the public’s perspectives on the e-governance system.

Rachel Evans

Evans, who is majoring in Women & Gender studies and in Political Science and International Relations, traveled to England, where she interviewed and participated in group activities with young women to learn about their patterns of consumption. Her goal was to discover insights into the complex relationship between media and food.

Kelsey Murray

Murray, a biological sciences major, took a six-week road trip through the Northeast, spending multiple days in pediatric nursing homes volunteering and interacting with children while interviewing staff to gain greater insight into patient-caregiver relationships. Her ultimate goal is to become a physician and open her own pediatric nursing home.

How To Learn More about the Plastino Scholars Program

David Plastino and the 2019 Plastino Scholars

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.

The Plastino Scholars Program for 2021 information meeting and application dates will be announced in September 2020.

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 traveling 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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