Maria Ahmed '20 in graduation cap and gown.

Maria Ahmed ’20, who majored in international affairs and anthropology and sociology, has been awarded a Schwarzman Scholarship. In recognition of this honor, we asked Ahmed to share details this award and how it will impact her future.

What does this award entail? Schwarzman Scholars is a global affairs master’s degree program dedicated to addressing the geopolitical challenges of the 21st century by preparing future leaders to understand China’s rising global influence. I will have the opportunity to study at Tsinghua University in China for a year starting in August 2021 and earn a master’s degree in global affairs.

What inspired you to apply for this program? I have always been interested in humanitarian work, migration issues, and human rights. I applied for the Schwarzman Scholarship to further my knowledge of China’s growing commercial and military presence in Africa and its long-term consequences for the continent. The Horn of Africa is a major strategic location for China, and as a native to the region, I want to critically examine China’s intentions, goals, and impact in the region. 

The application process included an online application and an interview panel with experts in the candidates’ field of interest. I am one of 154 scholars chosen for the 2021-2022 cohort from a global applicant pool of more than 3,600 applicants. I am the first scholar from my country, Somaliland, and that is an honor.

I am currently working for a nonprofit global health organization, Population Services International (PSI), in Washington, D.C., as a program assistant on their Anglophone Africa team. I hope to continue pursuing a career in nonprofit management, especially in refugee services. During my time at Lafayette, I was part of Refugee Action, which started in my first year, and I led an Alternative School Break (ASB) trip to Atlanta to work with the International Rescue Committee, a refugee resettlement agency. 

How did the Lafayette community support you? I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue my education. As a first-generation college graduate, I am immensely proud to achieve this milestone to continue my higher education. I would like to thank my family, my friends—especially Ayat Husseini ’20—and the International Affairs Department for their continuous support. I am forever grateful for Cory Fischer-Hoffman, [visiting professor of international affairs], and Robert Blunt, [associate professor of religious studies], for fostering my intellectual curiosity. I would also like to thank Rev. Alexandra Hendrickson, [director of religious and spiritual life], and Julia Goldberg, [associate dean of advising and co-curricular programs], for their help with my application process. 

What are you most excited about? Exploring and learning more about China. I look forward to living in a global city, Beijing, and learning from experts in diverse academic fields. 

How do you anticipate this experience will benefit you in the future? As the Schwarzman Scholarship places a huge emphasis on leadership, learning alongside future leaders will help me foster relationships with scholars who are eager to collaborate on solutions for global issues and make a global difference.


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Categorized in: Alumni, Alumni Success Stories, Anthropology and Sociology, Celebrating Women, International Affairs, News and Features