But in July, Gurley, a new member of the Brown Fellows program, boarded the three flights that would eventually take him to Italy – Louisville to Chicago, Chicago to Paris and Paris to Rome.

When the last plane touched down in Rome, he and 19 other scholars from UofL and Centre College began the first of many study abroad academic and enrichment activities through the Brown Fellows Program.

This program sets the tone for my future, for the program and for college in general, Gurley said. It was a great experience.

Each year, the James Graham Brown Foundation selects 20 students to attend UofL and Centre on full scholarship. But that’s just the beginning.

Brown Fellows receive an enhanced academic experience that includes individual study, field-based experiential learning and community service. Each fellow works with an on-campus program mentor to develop individual enrichment projects that incorporate his or her academic and research interests.

 This year’s students are the third group of 10 to enter UofL through the program. 

And, as did their predecessors, they took a pre-college trip abroad together.

One of the main purposes of this trip is to get them to think globally, said Andrew Grubb, who works with the Brown Fellows as part of his job as an academic coordinator for Undergraduate Affairs. A lot of their careers and academic programs are going to take them around the world.

During the two-week trip, the fellows traveled to Rome, Naples, Florence and Venice with various stops in between. The group toured such sites as the Vatican and Herculaneum and visited the U.S. Embassy.

While traveling, the scholars broke into groups to research four areas of Italian culture. They wrote articles for the Gazzetta Italiana, a newspaper that serves the Italian-American community in the U.S.. The fellows will present their research at a Brown Fellows symposium in September. At that symposium, the new fellows also will get a glimpse of the research older Brown Fellows have completed.

The pre-college trip is often the fellows’ first glimpse of traveling and researching abroad. Next year, as they progress in the program, they will be expected to begin work on their own summer enrichment projects, which likely will send them overseas for research.

Karen Christopher, an associate professor of women’s and gender studies and sociology, is the mentor for the incoming group of Brown Fellows. She said she wanted to get involved with the program to work with highly motivated students – and to push them to succeed.

I’m a big proponent of international travel, service projects and student research, she said. I want to see students get involved beyond the classroom.

The trip, she said, allowed her to meet the students she’ll be mentoring, and provided a bonding opportunity not only for fellows, but also for them and the faculty and staff who will work with them.

Katherine Blair, a program associate for the Brown Foundation, agreed.

It’s a great chance for me to get to know them and it makes me that much more excited to work with them throughout their college career.

The highlight of the trip for most was just getting to see Italy, the history, the art, the food.

Gurley said he most enjoyed visiting the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which houses works by Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

Brown Fellow Alli Grant of Harrodsburg, Ky., had never been to Europe before July. She said the group swam in the Mediterranean, shopped at the markets and visited Herculaneum, the Coliseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

We pretty much saw everything you could imagine to do in Italy, she said. I come from a small town. I went to the only high school in my county. It was nice to see there’s a whole world out there. Through the Brown Fellows program, we’re going to get to see the world.