Benjamin Griggs has traveled to several countries as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, but his first trip to England will be as a Lamar University McNair Scholar. Griggs was selected to attend the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) 2010 International Leadership Training Program at the University of Liverpool this summer. He is among only 20 students chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants to participate in the World Citizenship: Building Leadership Skills in a Multicultural Society conference from June 18 through July 10.

A senior political science and French major, Griggs was recruited into the McNair Scholars Program by program director Daniella Medley. The mission of the McNair Scholars Program is to provide promising undergraduates with the knowledge necessary to achieve and to successfully obtain a terminal degree through enhancement workshops, advanced research, a mentoring program and a supportive atmosphere. The scholars program is one of several federally funded TRIO programs on campus designed to assist first-generation college students.

“We are extremely proud of Ben as we help prepare him for his overseas study this summer,” Medley said. “Ben has once again proven that TRIO programs really do work.”

Griggs is a native of Beaumont who graduated from Jasper High School. Upon completion of a four-year military enlistment, he returned to Beaumont to attend Lamar. A chance meeting with Medley led to his participation in the McNair program, which initiated his undergraduate research. Two duty assignments in Paris piqued his interest in French literature and led to his research topic. Eventually he decided to add political science as a dual major.

“I fell in love with Paris, hence my French major, so I wanted to do research along those lines,” Griggs said. “I analyzed the Enlightenment literature of the time to determine if and how the literature affected the onset of the French Revolution, and if it could have been a point of emphasis during the conflict.”

Not a typical college student at 33 years old, Griggs was skeptical about applying for the international conference because of the rigorous screening process and the limited number of individuals to be chosen. Unsure whether the conference committee would seriously consider a student his age, he was thrilled to be accepted. While in Europe, he hopes to see his beloved Paris again as well as make a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, during the few days of free travel time allotted.

“I feel fortunate to have been selected for the leadership conference and want to do my best to represent my school and my country,” he said. After graduation, Griggs would like to pursue an advanced degree and someday join the U.S. Foreign Service as an ambassador or a diplomat.