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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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2012-13 Dalai Lama Scholarship awarded to UCI senior promoting human rights

Soraya Azzawi plans outreach to local refugees, publication detailing global crises

— Irvine, Calif., October 22, 2012 —

A senior dedicated to raising awareness of human rights struggles and the plight of refugees around the world has been awarded the 2012-13 UC Irvine XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship, established in 2004 to recognize students committed to ethical leadership, peace and positive global relations.

Soraya Azzawi will receive $20,000 for academic expenses; to support the publication of a journal documenting humanitarian crises affecting refugees worldwide; and to establish an English tutoring program for local refugees.

“My family was very fortunate to leave Iraq before the Gulf War and settle in the middle-class suburbs of Southern California,” Azzawi says. “They could have easily ended up in a refugee camp. For this reason, I look forward to raising awareness of the unique challenges facing refugees globally.”

Her journal will be entirely student-driven and -produced and will acknowledge Orange County’s history of accepting refugees, starting with the arrival of Southeast Asian immigrants in the 1970s, at the end of the Vietnam War. Azzawi plans to model the publication after The Yale Journal of Human Rights and address such issues faced by refugees as dislocation, post-traumatic stress disorder and legal quagmires.

A complementary project will involve providing English-language tutoring services and furniture donations in partnership with Orange County community organizations.

A member of the Campuswide Honors Program, Azzawi is majoring in neurobiology and political science and is the 2012 recipient of the Carol Becker McGaugh Award for outstanding research in the neurobiology of learning and memory.

Azzawi has taken advantage of a multitude of academic and extracurricular opportunities on campus. She served as staff writer and news editor of the campus newspaper, New University, her sophomore and junior years and conducts research in the Wood Laboratory at UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory. In the summer of 2010, she traveled to Israel, Palestine and Jordan under UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative to promote dialogue and understanding about the Middle East conflict.

As part of her Dalai Lama Scholarship award, Azzawi attended an ethical leadership assembly in June at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, Calif., along with Dalai Lama Scholars from Stanford University, Oberlin College, New York University, Princeton University and McGill University. Thirteen institutions of higher learning around the world offer endowed scholarships named for the Tibetan spiritual leader. UCI’s scholarship program is the first ever sanctioned by the Dalai Lama.

“Soraya’s project is perfectly aligned with the goals of the UCI Dalai Lama Scholarship and our campus values,” said Thomas A. Parham, vice chancellor for student affairs. “Through the human rights journal and her proposed work with local refugees, Soraya will promote respect and empathy for individuals suffering from war-related trauma.

“Her aims are both academic and pragmatic, balancing intellectual curiosity and commitment to improving our world. Soraya’s intelligence and compassion are inspirational.”

A graduate of Irvine’s University High School, Azzawi is a volunteer with No More Victims, a nonprofit that arranges U.S. medical sponsorships for war-injured children. She assisted in the treatment of a 3-year-old girl named Alaa’, who underwent surgery to remove shrapnel from her eyes after an inadvertent attack by American military forces on her home in Al Qaim, Iraq.

“Thankfully, doctors at CHOC Children’s Hospital helped restore her sight,” Azzawi said. “She’s just like any other little kid. The only difference between her and O.C. kids is where she happens to live.”

Seeing the impact doctors can have on the lives of others has inspired Azzawi to apply to medical school. She hopes to attend one with an emphasis on global and public health.

About the UC Irvine XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship: The scholarship fund was endowed in 2004 by private citizens who attended a UCI talk by the Dalai Lama on ethical leadership and personal responsibility. The scholarship is awarded annually to honor his visit and encourage future generations to uphold the ideals shared by the Dalai Lama, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. For more information, visit www.vcsa.uci.edu/DalaiLamaScholarship.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.

Soraya Azzawi
Steve Zylius / University Communications
Soraya Azzawi

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