AMES, Iowa — Three Iowa State University College of Design students received a highly competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State for 2023–2024. The scholarship is awarded to undergraduate Pell Grant recipients who will be interning or studying abroad.

College of Design recipients include graphic design seniors Jessica Cruz Hernandez and Cyrus Yoder and industrial design junior Sarah Oyervides. They are among five Iowa State students who received Gilman Scholarships this year.

Jessica Cruz Hernandez

Cruz Hernandez, from Des Moines, is studying in Italy this fall semester with the College of Design Rome Program. As a first-generation high school graduate and the first in her family to attend college, Cruz Hernandez says she jumped at the opportunity to take part in the Gilman Scholarship Program.

“Studying abroad has been a goal of mine since high school and one of the major influences on my decision to pursue higher education,” she said. “Learning in Rome will benefit me because it is one of the best places to study art and graphic design.”

Cruz Hernandez plans to pursue to a career in UX/UI design or front-end web development. Through the Rome Program, she is further developing her visual communications skills by learning how people from different backgrounds interact with design.

“Visual communication can be understood beyond language barriers, and because of that, an understanding of cultural differences can improve representation, understanding and empathy,” she said.

Cyrus Yoder

Yoder, from Iowa City, spent part of summer 2023 studying abroad with the Graphic Design in Europe class, visiting cities like London and Amsterdam as a way to experience new cultures and perspectives that will influence his design process, he said. An apparel, merchandising and design minor, Yoder has always dreamed of designing sportswear for a major national league like the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB.

“These organizations all reach out to a wide variety of people with diverse backgrounds,” Yoder said. “It is important for me as a designer to be able to make products that connect with diverse audiences, and I think one of the best ways for me to accomplish that is by experiencing different cultures firsthand.”

Yoder took on responsibilities at a young age to help his family make ends meet. For him, receiving this scholarship means much more than the experiences he is grateful to have had abroad.

“I have learned that just because something feels impossible today doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll be impossible tomorrow,” he said.

“I never thought I would make it out of Iowa, but through perseverance, determination and hope I have put myself in a position to live out a dream of mine and see a new part of the world.”

Sarah Oyervides

Oyervides will be in Stockholm, Sweden, through January, studying at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

As a child, she grew obsessed with her brother’s toy cars — especially his 1969 Corvette Stingray model, which she kept and still has today. That obsession became a passion that has led her to seek a career in car design. At KTH, she is enrolled in industrial engineering courses that will complement the industrial design education she has received at Iowa State.

“When this opportunity to go to Sweden arose, I knew I had to figure out a way to get there, and I’m so grateful for this [Gilman Scholarship] program,” she said.

Oyervides comes from a family of seven. Her parents moved from Mexico to Texas before making their home in Iowa; she grew up in Muscatine and completed high school in Ames. Oyervides’ father, an architect, encouraged her and her siblings to seek out creative professions, she said. Without the financial means, Oyervides knew it wouldn’t be easy to pursue her degree, but that didn’t stop her.

“At some points during my college career, I’ve held two jobs in addition to going to school full time,” she said. “I’ve always been a firm believer that if you put the work in, things will pay off. That mindset has motivated me through late nights and long shifts and it’ll motivate me in Sweden.”


Jessica Cruz Hernandez, Graphic Design Senior,
Cyrus Yoder, Graphic Design Senior,
Sarah Oyervides, Industrial Design Junior,
Lauren Johnson, College of Design Communications Specialist,