Scholarship opens the world to Tar Heels

The Phillips Passport Initiative covers the cost of an international travel necessity for first-year and transfer undergraduates.

A graphic showing an overhead view of (all animated): a passport, a pair of headphones, sunglasses, a set of keys and, European coinage and a plane ticket.
(Andrew Jacobs/UNC Creative)

Carolina strives to offer all students a global education, including opportunities in other countries. For some, obtaining a passport is an important first step.

Enter the Phillips Passport Initiative.

The initiative, which just completed its second application cycle this month, provides full funding for first-year and new transfer undergraduate students to apply for their first U.S. passport.

Senior Jonathan Bailey of Charlotte was part of the initiative’s inaugural class of scholarship recipients in 2022.

An economics and political science major, Bailey always wanted to study abroad. He heard about the Phillips Passport Initiative at transfer student orientation and decided to apply.

Bailey received the $175 worth of funding, applied for his passport and then made plans to head to England. He spent this summer studying at the London School of Economics, where he met peers from across the globe and took a course on environmental and energy economics, a potential career path.

“I’m definitely even more interested in that career,” Bailey said.

Other scholarship recipients have studied sustainability in Sweden, taken part in a cultural heritage and sport program in Spain and signed up for fall break trips, among other opportunities.

Dori Brady, program director of Phillips Ambassadors — the Carolina Asia Center program that runs the initiative — said she plans to offer scholarships to all 141 students who applied this year. She also plans to mentor the students through the passport application process.

Phillips Ambassadors, which works with the Study Abroad Office, College of Arts and Sciences and UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School global programs, awards scholarships to students to study abroad in Asia. In 2022, $22,750 in scholarships were distributed to 130 students. Of the recipients, 48 were first-generation college students, 23 were Honors Carolina Scholars and 38 were Carolina Covenant Scholars.

The Phillips Passport Initiative builds on the scholarship program by removing the No. 1 barrier to a global experience: getting — and paying for —a passport.

Brady said a question on Carolina’s undergraduate admissions application asking prospective students if they have a passport has been “a huge boost.” Applicants who answer “no” are directed to the Phillips Passport Initiative website.

Students are not required to study abroad if they accept the passport scholarship. However, study abroad advisers will help them explore global opportunities, including internships, research, service-learning and general travel.

For Bailey, it was an application he’s glad he completed.

“It was really smooth, simple and easy to apply,” he said.