What do you do when a distant humanitarian crisis halfway around the world becomes all too real? For UCI alumna Iman Siddiqi ’18, the answer was simple.
Siddiqi, a political science and global Middle East studies double major, came face to face with the plight of Syrian refugees during a family trip to Turkey as a freshman.
“During that trip, I saw Syrian refugees firsthand,” she says. “Seeing them had a strong impact on me, and I decided then that I had to do something to help.”
Upon her return, Siddiqi enrolled in UCI’s Arabic program so she could better communicate with the people she wanted to help. This eventually led to Siddiqi teaching English to them online. But she wanted to do more.
She decided to create a scholarship program for displaced students.
The first of its kind in the UC system, Siddiqi’s Refugee Students Scholarship Program will go beyond simply providing money. It will also provide mentorship and guidance on the admissions process.
To help get the program off the ground, Siddiqi sought and received the Dalai Lama Scholarship, and with that money, she hosted a successful fundraising event at UCI. With grassroots support from her family, the community, her UCI campus organization, Peaceful Passions, and UCI faculty and staff, Siddiqi raised more than $93,000 in a single night for the program.
A committee is now being established to determine eligibility requirements, and the first scholarships should be awarded to qualified recipients by the 2019-20 academic year.
“My goal for the program is to allow displaced students – refugees, asylees and asylum seekers – to complete their higher education at a UC so that they can get the education and skills that they need to rebuild their lives in their host communities,” says Siddiqi.