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New Study Abroad Award Gives Flight to Student’s International Teaching Career Goals

Sister Mary Catharine Sullivan and alumna Cheri Gudgeon Quinlan ’79

Mary Catharine Sullivan, RSM, Ph.D., ’55 (left), with Cheri Gudgeon Quinlan ’79 (right), who established a study abroad award in her mentor’s name

Brianna Barbarise’s upcoming two-week study abroad experience is a story of firsts. The first in her family to attend a four-year college, the Georgian Court senior, a double major in education and psychology, will travel internationally for the first time to Ecuador in January. Brianna’s trip is possible because of a Georgian Court award, the Sister Mary Catharine Sullivan Award for Global Education.  One more first—she’s the inaugural recipient of the award established by alumna Cheri Gudgeon Quinlan ’79, which honors the GCU faculty member who was influential in her career.

Brianna Barbarise
GCU senior Brianna Barbarise is the inaugural recipient of the Sister Mary Catharine Sullivan Award for Global Education.

“It’s my dream to travel and teach in other countries,” said Brianna. “When I saw the scholarship announcement this fall, I knew I wanted to apply.”

The award, open to education and/or Spanish majors, covers Brianna’s study abroad program costs and additional expenses up to $4,500. One important criterion—that the program includes a homestay immersion experience—was especially appealing to Brianna.

“My family is from Puerto Rico, so I have a Hispanic heritage, but I am eager to learn about a new culture I know very little about in a meaningful way by living with a family,” she said. “It will be very different living in someone’s home than staying in a dorm or hotel, and I’m looking forward to it!”

Brianna will take a 3-credit environmental studies class along with 12 other students, giving them all an up-close look at one of world’s most unique—and beautiful—ecosystems, the Galapagos Islands. While she doesn’t yet know which family she’ll live with, Brianna and the other students have connected through social media—building a community even before boarding a plane.

Opening Eyes to a World Beyond One’s Own

Brianna Barbarise and Cheri Gudgeon Quinlan
Brianna Barbarise (left) met with Cheri Gudgeon Quinlan ’79 (right) in the Mansion in November.

The Monroe Township, New Jersey, resident has also received some advice from the award’s donor, Ms. Quinlan. “She told me that if I need support on the trip, ask for it—I’m not alone,” said Brianna. “And when opportunities open up, go for them!”

For those who know Ms. Quinlan, it’s not surprising she, together with her husband, Marc, chose to establish the award. She is now a world language consultant, and her career includes teaching Spanish at the middle school and community college levels, district world language and fine arts supervisory experience, and serving as the world language, international education, and gifted and talented coordinator at the New Jersey Department of Education. The annual award’s name is also understandable: Mary Catharine Sullivan, RSM, Ph.D., ’55, a former assistant professor of world languages (Spanish) at GCU, was instrumental in supporting Ms. Quinlan’s love of Spanish and interest in world cultures.

“I want others, especially prospective language teachers, to have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a language and culture beyond their own and to be able to share that experience with students while inspiring and piquing the interest of the next generation,” said Ms. Quinlan.

Brianna’s interest is already piqued—she plans to study abroad in South Korea next summer. And as she pursues her career goal of teaching internationally, she does so with appreciation for where she received her start—the Sister Mary Catharine Sullivan Award for Global Education and Georgian Court.

The Office of Global Education Programs is available and eager to support any students looking to plan their future study abroad adventure. To learn more about programs available or apply for the Sister Mary Catharine Sullivan Award for Global Education for 2022–2023, please visit: Global Education.

And to follow Brianna’s and other GCU students’ study abroad experiences, please visit GCU’s Global Education blog.

Story contributed by freelance writer Sheila Noonan.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Georgian Court University is a leading regional university that provides a transformative education, preparing students for ethical leadership and service in the Catholic Mercy tradition. Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. The university has a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women.

As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 1,900 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 16 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings, and in 2024, GCU was named one of the best Online Master’s Colleges in New Jersey.

The main campus is in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students through its Center for Professional Studies, and at other locations, including GCU at Brookdale, and through multiple online degree and certificate programs.