Student News

Master’s students gain opportunities for international travel and study, thanks to Professor Gerald Unks

Photo of Robert Brinlee

M.A.T. student Robert Brinlee


Photo of Brandon Keith

M.A.T. student Brandon Keith


Photo of Lucas Paulsen

Professor Gerald Unks

Robert Brinlee and Brandon Keith are preparing to be high school teachers Robert plans to teach English and Brandon, history. Both are currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching degree (M.A.T.) at the School of Education and will graduate this summer.

For these two graduate students, their experience and learning this year will be enhanced by an opportunity to travel and study in England, thanks to the generosity of Professor Gerald Unks, who annually funds M.A.T. Travel to England Scholarships for selected members of the M.A.T. class.

Brinlee, a cum laude graduate of Centre College in Danville, Ky., plans to visit secondary schools in England and talk with educators and students there. In the future, he hopes that sharing what he learns in England with his own high school students will help create a world filled with more compassion and social equality.   

“The world in which we live grows smaller and more complicated each day. I want to teach my future students how to become better communicators with each other and the world at large,” said Brinlee. “I will always advocate on their behalf but my purpose is to encourage them to stand up for one another by enabling them to see the world through the lives of others. In order to achieve this end, I too must continue my journey into the world around me.”

Keith, a graduate of The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., plans to spend time in England with people he knows who are currently living there. “I hope they can expose me to the non-tourist aspects of life in England,” he said. 

He believes that experiencing international travel is an important way to expand his understanding about the world and the people in it. “I previously traveled abroad in the Dominican Republic. From that experience I learned a lot about life there, and just as much about life here in the states,” said Keith. “Being exposed to something different made me realize certain things about the way I lived. I hope to have a similar experience with my travels in England and I believe the experience will make me a better teacher.”

Both recipients have obtained the rank of Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America, which is one criterion for selection for the travel award. When candidates are being considered for the scholarship, preference is given to students who have achieved the highest rank in Boy Scouting or Girl Scouting. In addition, preference is given to students who have never traveled to England before.

Unks has long been an advocate of the benefits of travel. “No single activity has broadened my perceptions and deepened my understanding of myself and of the world more than has traveling,” he told Carolina’s graduating seniors when he delivered “The Last Lecture” at their senior send-off in April 2008.

He encouraged the students to use travel as an opportunity to learn about the world. “When you travel, act like a student of the world’s cultures with an open mind, and not like a visitor at a zoo,” he said.

Unks has put these ideas into action by leading student groups to England, the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China. He founded the UNC-Chapel Hill London Program in the early 1970s and continues to direct the program and lead student groups on a four-week, living-learning experience in London each spring. 

At the School of Education, Unks established the M.A.T. Travel to England Scholarships in 2005, reflecting his strong conviction that teachers who have the opportunity to travel and interact with people from different cultures will translate those experiences into a more culturally aware classroom environment for their students.

“I began giving money for the scholarship when I started receiving royalties from my book, Schooling in America, and that continues to be the source,” said Unks.

Anne Bryan, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs for the School of Education, affirmed the need for student scholarships. “In an ideal world, all students in the School of Education would have an opportunity to travel and study abroad and get a sense of the world beyond Chapel Hill. These experiences are increasingly important in today’s global world,” said Bryan.

“Unfortunately, many of our students can’t afford these opportunities,” she continued. “We need more resources, like the scholarship provided by Dr. Unks, so that our students can become the best possible educators for the 21st century.”

If you would like more information about ways to support students at the School of Education, please contact Wendy Borman, assistant dean for external relations, at or (919) 843-4536.