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UM News
January 18, 2013


University of Montana senior Justin Trifiro received a $5,000 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad in Russia for spring semester. Trifiro, a graduate of Wethersfield High School in Wethersfield, Ct., will spend four months studying at Saint Petersburg State University through the School of Russian and Asian Studies.

Trifiro majors in Russian language in the UM Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures. Last year, he received a bronze medal for his essay in the non-heritage learners, level-two American Council of Teachers of Russian National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest. Trifiro only had an hour to write an original essay with no dictionary on the topic “What is a friend?” He wrote a creative essay about going back in time to interact with Russian poets, a nod to the roots of his interest in studying the language and literature.

“I got into Russian on sort of a whim,” Trifiro said. “I read ‘Anna Karenina’ by Tolstoy in translation years ago and I got bit by the Russian bug.”

UM Russian Professor Ona Renner-Fahey and Assistant Professor Clint Walker recognized Trifiro’s talent and encouraged him to apply for the Gilman Scholarship. He had to write a few essays and come up with a project proposal. Aside from studying fourth-year Russian, cinema, literature and Russian mass media, Trifiro will check out music venues in Saint Petersburg – primarily jazz – and interview musicians to write a paper when he returns to the U.S.

He has applied to doctorate-track programs in the U.S., and hopes to hear where his future will take him this spring. Aside from writing his music essay, Trifiro will give back to the Gilman Scholarship Program when he returns by speaking to high school students about the opportunities to study abroad with the scholarship.

The scholarship program offers awards for undergraduate study abroad and was established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000. U.S. undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university are eligible to apply for funding to participate in study abroad programs worldwide.

Trifiro will begin his semester abroad on Feb. 1. His parents are Robert and Lisa Trifiro of Cromwell, Ct.

For more information call Walker at 406-243-2501 or email



Local, Hartford Courant (Hartford, Ct.)


Contact: Clint Walker, assistant professor of Russian, UM Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature, 406-243-2501,