Alumni News Alumni Success Story

In Conversation with Samiya Farooq

By Rimsha Ali Shah

As a student of veterinary medicine at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS), Lahore, Samiya Farooq held a strong belief in overhauling agricultural that were more suited to preserving the climate and the habitat.  Fast forward four years and now she is the first South Asian professional accredited by the Savory Institute for their course on Holistic Management.

The journey from her time as a student to a professional was lined with achievements, including becoming the first female vice president of her university’s debating club, the joint editor of a student magazine called Vision, an associate member of Seeds of Peace and going to the United States on the Global Undergraduate Semester Exchange Program (UGRAD).

It was, in fact, her association with Seeds of Peace that inculcated the spirit of volunteerism, community service, and civic engagement in her, and paved way for her UGRAD program.

“I was always active in arranging harmony camps and peace activities as a seed of peace.  It was during the national integration camp, I had organized that a fellow batch mate of mine, Syed Muhammad Faheem Ahmed, told me about the UGRAD program.  I applied and before I knew it, I was in the United States as an exchange participant!”

The experience, Farooq says, has shaped her personality in great ways.  Placed at the University of Utah, Farooq had enrolled in livestock management courses that allowed her to visit Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho as part of her field visit.  “I wanted to build on the knowledge I had acquired in Pakistan, and my courses offered me the unique opportunity of learning new methods and practices.”

Her interest in veterinary medicine and agriculture helped her connect with people at her university and during her field visits.  In fact, Farooq’s keen interest in the subject earned her a spot on the campus radio show where she was able to impress everyone with her knowledge.  “I was the first international student to answer all the questions correctly!” she exclaims.

“Exchanges for me are more about exploring and understanding the people, rather than simply ‘going places’,” adds Farooq.  She has a special smile as she mentions Francia, her dorm fellow, KC Neil Sorenson, her mentor, and Professor Lyle MC Niel, her professors.  “They were always there to raise my spirits and push me to be the best version of myself,” she remarks.

On her return, Farooq continued to put the skills she acquired in Utah into practice.  Her outstanding leadership skills and her passion for the community development paved way for her to win the SMILE grant award in 2015 on the theme of teacher’s training.  She traveled across four districts of Punjab including Lahore, Kasur, Nana lana Sahab, and Sheikhupura to conduct her workshops with teachers serving in the local schools.

Last year, an opportunity presented itself when Farooq started working as a veterinary extension officer.  While studying proposals presented for Sir Richard Branson’s $25 million Virgin Earth challenge launched in 2007, Farooq came across the Savory Institute’s proposal on sustainable livestock farming.

As part of the accreditation process to become a hub of the Savory Institute, Farooq attended five online courses on holistic management, a workshop in Colorado to learn the basics, a boot camp in Zimbabwe where she practically witnessed the land healing, and also saw a demonstration of sustainable farming in a village close to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.  She is now the first South Asian accredited professional certified by Savory Institute and a member of the team that is the first Savory Hub candidate in Pakistan.

“We are currently in the process of setting up our first research pilot project in Kasur, to learn the protocols of Holistic Management in Pakistan, according to the Savory Principals. This will not only help us in eradicating poverty by introducing sustainable farming practices, but will also give us a world lead on climate change by carbon sequestration,” she says.

Her active contribution towards climate action also led to her selection as a candidate for PUAN Climate Change Conference 2016, where she had the opportunity to network with exchange alumni from five different countries.  “I used to feel that there are not many climate change activists in our country, but to meet so many of them together has been quite inspiring!”

Farooq now plans to pursue her work in soil regeneration and sustainable farming practices.  From conducting awareness camps for farmers as a student at UVAS to working on a demonstration site for farmers and students so that they may learn about sustainable yet climate-friendly agricultural practices, Farooq has proved her commitment to bringing change in the lives of farmers through climate-friendly methods.

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In Conversation with Neelum Khan Toru

Neelum Khan Toru with Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Evan Ryan.

By Rimsha Ali Shah

In October 2016, Neelum Khan Toru’s term as the Chairperson of the Provincial Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), was concluding.  During her two years at the PCSW, Toru was charged with reviewing legislation, assessing government programs, and monitoring their implementation for increased women’s participation in the political, social, and economic fronts.

It was a month prior to her tenure completion that she received an email confirming her selection for the inaugural Distinguished Humphrey Leadership Award taking place from September 16 – October 4, 2016, in the U.S.

“I was surprised when I received the email confirming my nomination for this program!” exclaims Toru.  She feels that such opportunities are equally pivotal for the continuous progress of professionals and students, alike.  “Once you are in the professional circle, opportunities for such executive courses are crucial for your professional grooming and growth,” she adds.

As part of the group of 10 leaders representing nine countries in the inaugural Distinguished Humphrey Leadership Award, Toru attended a one-week executive leadership course at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, one-week individualized job shadowing at Global Rights for Women (GRW), Minneapolis, and a one-on-one meeting with U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Cathy Russel in Washington, D.C.  

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From Pakistan to Nepal: PUAN Delegation Bags Seven Awards at EIMUN 2016

By Rimsha Ali Shah

The delegation at the transit

The delegation at the transit

While in transit at the Hamad International Airport, Qatar, Abdul Moeed Asad, Ayesha Amin, Sara Hassan, Umer Hussain, and Wahid Khan posed for a photograph hoisting the Pakistani flag.  It was August 14, 2016, Pakistan’s 70th Independence day, and this delegation, later joined by Aruba Khalid, Azeema Ilyas, and Baitullah Khan, were all set for the first regional edition of the Everest International Model United Nations (EIMUN) 2016 held in Kathmandu, Nepal from August 15 -19, 2016.

Their journey was one marked with extraordinary tales!  From meeting the U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Alaina Teplitz, to singing the famous “Dil Dil Pakistan” on 14th August; forging bonds with young leaders from South and Central Asia to staging a cultural wedding show on the global village; exploring Kathmandu and Pokhara, appreciating the cultural diversity to winning seven out of eight awards! 

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In Conversation with Veengas

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Sitting in the Daily Ibrat office, a Sindhi newspaper in Karachi, Veengas typed away the ending sentences to a story she had been working on.  She had been at this very office since 2008 when she decided to delve into the world of journalism and started writing on human rights, politics, and minority rights.  As she picked up the phone to give her interview for the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) blog, she recalled the journey she had had, sitting in this very office.

It was in 2011, while still working with the Daily Ibrat, that she stumbled upon an announcement for the U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism exchange program.  At that time, this opportunity was what Veengas had been seeking.  She applied, got in and headed off to the United States for a six-week long exchange program that helped her increase her knowledge and strengthen her capacity as a journalist. 

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In Conversation with Ahmad Ullah Qazi

AhmadQazi

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Who would have thought that a last minute application submitted in a frenzy would make it through to the pool of finalists for the Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders (SUSI) 2011 and land Ahmad Ullah Qazi from Peshawar, then 21 and unexposed to the world beyond Pakistan, on a trip to the U.S. with 23 other students selected from Pakistan.

“I remember when Farhan Bogra, now an alumnus of Center Stage and a member of the famous band Khumariyaan, literally forced me to apply for the program.  ‘Qazi, I’ve filled out your biographical information all you have to do is complete your essays and letters of recommendation,’” recalls Qazi, who completed the application without any expectations.  Five years later Qazi works with United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, serves as a judge for various Model United Nations (MUNs) held across Pakistan, is a part of the youth coalition working on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – 4: Quality Education, and is a mentor for the youth of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 

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In Conversation With Moiz Rehan

Moiz Rehan

By Rimsha Ali Shah

Moiz was in the midst of a hectic study regime for his matriculation exams when a call he had been anticipating finally came through.  He had made it to the interview stage for the Kennedy Lugar – Youth Exchange and Study Program (KL – YES).  Despite having an English exam the very next day, Moiz braced himself and went for the interview that later confirmed his participation in the KL-YES 2012-2013 batch.  He was going to be in the U.S. for an entire year as an exchange student at a U.S. high school!

“Five years since the summer of 2011, I can now sit here and say that anything is possible!  That is what the YES experience taught me.”

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21st Century Learning: Empowering Educators through Innovations in Learning

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

“As an educator from Pakistan’s higher education sector, this symposium has helped me learn the cutting-edge technologies and pedagogies that are out there,” said Tanzeel, an attendee of the first ever international conference for educators in Pakistan.  Addressing these key developments in an age of education revolution was the primary theme of the 21st Century Learning Symposium, held on March 19, 2016 at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST).  The symposium was organized by Youth Impact to empower local educators with 21st century learning methodologies and technologies through a day of interactive, focused, and targeted workshops with local and international trainers.  The man behind this vision is International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) alumnus, Abdul Samad Khan.  The symposium was made possible with the help of the alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).  All alumni of various U.S. government sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to $5,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.

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In Conversation with Kamran Javed

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Standing in the center of the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) ground for the third installment of Music Mela, Kamran Javed was feeling the mid-day April heat but his focus did not falter.  Having previously served as the logistics lead for the first two Music Melas, Javed was now promoted to Project Coordinator for this year’s Music Mela, where he was in control of multiple teams working to finalize the set up: sound, stage, seating, check!   The now confident young leader recounts his experience of 2007 as the first batch of students in the English Micro-scholarship Access Program and could not have imagined he would be heading logistics for the biggest music festival in Pakistan, in addition to conducting his own Alumni small grant project, serving as an international scouts trainer and a mentor to young access students and alumni and being recognized as an Emerging Leader within the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).  We sat down to talk to Javed and learn more about his experiences now and as an Access student.

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In Conversation with Naeema Butt

By Rimsha Ali Shah

“Why theater?” is a question many people addressed to Naeema Butt, a mass communications major, former football player of the Pakistan National Women’s Football team, a social activist, President of World Merit, a global platform for talented and collaborative youth, and the current General Secretary of Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) Lahore Chapter.  With such impressive accomplishments, people could not help but ask Naeema why had she “given up” her illustrious government job to pursue theater?

“Theater is meditative, rather, magical.  It’s not just a performance art for me, it defines who I am,”

Naeema explains with sparks in her eyes; her passion is obvious the more she speaks about her chosen art form.  Naeema, an alumna of the Global Undergraduate Semester Exchange Program (UGRAD), founded of Pehlaaj – Theater for Change, founded in Lahore in 2012, an entity that works to spearhead behavioral change through the power of performance.

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Roundtable Discussion: Translating Exchange Experiences to Help Communities

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Fourteen alumni from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) participated in a roundtable discussion with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy, Elizabeth Fitzsimmons yesterday in Islamabad.  President of the PUAN Islamabad Chapter, Haseeb Kiyani opened the dialogue with an overview of the 12 chapters of PUAN nationwide and the concentrated efforts of the alumni for capacity development and community service projects across Pakistan.

“I learned about inclusive education technologies in the U.S. and I have been working on replicating similar inclusive education technologies in Pakistan so that our schools can cater to the special needs of the disabled,”

said Ali Shabbar, an alumnus of the Disabilities Exchange Program.  Shabbar recently completed his small grant project through which he successfully trained teachers and installed disability-friendly technology labs.   Shabbar’s efforts have allowed 15 persons with disabilities to enroll in these schools. 

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