May 30, 2008 — It's a sign of the times that University of Virginia student Steven Keith will serve as a study-abroad ambassador to other underrepresented students through blogging about his experience on DiversityAbroad.com. The rising third-year undergraduate, who is majoring in urban and environmental planning in U.Va.'s School of Architecture, has been awarded one of eight inaugural Diversity Abroad Summer Scholarships nationwide. Writing his own blog is one of the requirements of the $2,000 scholarship that will support his six-week stay in Berlin.
As a German-born African-American, Keith, who lives in Fairfax, Va., will have an unusual perspective to offer interested minority college students. Although he has traveled with his family around Europe and was born in rural southern Germany, he has never been to Berlin. Through his courses and personal experiences, Keith will have the opportunity to learn about art and architecture in Berlin, as well as the politics of the city's reunification and the European Union — and he will be able to share all that he is learning with readers online as he experiences everything.
Keith found out about Diversity Abroad through U.Va.'s International Studies Office, but he had an example closer to home.
"I wanted to study abroad because both my sisters, who also went to U.Va., studied abroad during college. They said it was one of the best experiences of their lives," Keith said. One of his sisters, as well as his parents, will visit him in Berlin, where he will be from June 3 to July 20. He also is pursuing dual citizenship.
"Professionally, Steven is interested in the dynamics and planning of inner-city living and is thrilled with the opportunity to learn from an example such as Berlin," noted Marina S. Markot, associate director for study abroad at U.Va.
Keith's background makes him exceptional. Minority students account for nearly 34 percent of enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities, but comprise less than 17 percent of students who study abroad, according to Andrew Gordon, founder of Diversity Abroad, an organization established in 2006 to ensure that all students are aware of and have equal access to the opportunities and benefits of study and travel abroad.
Through its online resource center, Diversity Abroad partners with colleges, universities, education abroad programs and public and private organizations to promote outreach and provide scholarships to underrepresented students. The not-for-profit organization IES Abroad will fund Keith's scholarship.
"The International Studies Office is very happy to support Steven in his experience and thrilled that he has been honored with the inaugural Diversity Abroad Scholarship," Markot said. "Steven is a proactive, dedicated and open-minded student who will represent U.Va. and the United States as a true cultural ambassador."
Just as his sisters influenced him, Keith said he wants to encourage other minority students to study abroad.
To read about Steven Keith's adventures in Berlin, visit