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Graduate student chosen as Jacobson Scholar

Nabila Bhatti, chosen as the Jacobson Scholar for 2010, displayed achievements making her the top scholarship recipient from the Vicent L. Hawkinson Peace Scholarhip.

Students from all over Minnesota may apply for this award, but few students are selected, one of which is the top recipient. This year, 45 students applied and only 12 were chosen for interviews. Bhatti was the student at the top.

“She is just sterling,” professor Julie Andrzejewski said. “Nabila was a coach, a mentor and an excellent organizer.”

The Vincent L. Hawkinson Foundation honors students who have made contributions to peace and justice and awards scholarships to the students who have demonstrated a significant commitment to this. Prior to this, Bhatti received the Mary Craik Scholarship in 2009.

“From my heart, the recognition was the most important,” Bhatti said. “I am very happy to have gotten this.”

Bhatti is a 43-year-old graduate student born in Pakistan, working on her third master’s degree in the social responsibility program at SCSU. She is currently working on her third semester and her interest grew in the program because of her background in this area of study.

Andrzejewski explained that Bhatti is a religious minority in Pakistan and a woman, so the experiences she had along with her perspective is working for the benefit of others.

She did undergraduate work in Pakistan, obtained two master’s degrees in economics and rural development and has been involved in social justice organizations as well. Bhatti’s childhood included discrimination against women and minorities, making her familiar with her course of study.

“When I was a student these issues were not as prominent as women’s rights issues,” Bhatti said. Communication with women is important to her, and her goal is to make sure when doing social and environmental work through organizations that she does not just give people something and leave, but to stay and offer assistance.

“What she has brought to the program is a very deep and complex understanding of some of the things that are going on in Pakistan,” Andrzejewski said.

Bhatti was an organizer for the Global Social Responsibility Conference, an event at SCSU led by students focusing on global issues such as social justice, peace, war, animals and the environment.

“It was an experiment in the social responsibility program [at the time] and it was a challenge for me – it was my responsibility to organize the conference,” Bhatti said.

She organized the events during the conference as a graduate assistant and it gained interest from community members and students on campus.

In Pakistan, she has worked as a correspondent reporting human rights violations for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and with the Taangh Wasaib Organization focusing on women’s rights. She designed posters for women and schoolchildren, basing the themes on discrimination and child’s rights.

“We had workshops with teachers to see if they had a good understanding of child’s rights,” Bhatti said. “In the next stage we were showing children documentaries about rights and child labor and taking their questions, raising awareness.”

The group also took articles from Children’s Rights Council, taking students, teachers and faculty members from different schools and discussing the article, to help better tactics and techniques in the education systems.

“This was quite informative and these programs were broadcasted, so many students and teachers were listening on the radio,” Bhatti said.

Bhatti was a consultant for the National Commission for Justice and Peace, where she did an agricultural survey for rural populations. In doing this, she studied how farmers and their families are affected by discrimination in terms of class and social status.

“If people were rich and had good jobs, they felt less discrimination,” Bhatti explained. “For example, if the land owner was sitting on a couch now, [farmers] would bet sitting on the floor.”

Her environmental work continued as a social organizer for the non-profit Pattan Development Organization. Development activities and housing projects were the focus as well as assisting and teaching in areas such as charity, development and human rights.

“Because of bad administration, the government was not doing anything for precautions,” Bhatti said. The organization’s members provided shelters in emergency situations when there was flooding, working as a charity organization in that situation.

Bhatti was inspired by her mother, who she said had a great vision in this area of work. She feels obtaining this award is a great recognition to the social responsibility program, as many people apply for the scholarship.

“She has a great personality, a good sense of humor, and makes really warm connections with people and that’s part of her skill, it’s not contrived at all it’s entirely genuine,” Andrzejewski said.

Bhatti has also presented at conferences both on the local and state level including the Social Justice and Peace Conference for Youth and the Intersectionalities, Women’s and Gender Studies Conference. She plans to finish her master’s degree in social responsibility at SCSU and is still involved with her organizations.

“She does a good job at making bridges – helping people who may have some conflicts or different irritations she is very good at making people good and positive and moving forward in the right direction,” Andrzejewski said.

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Megan Junkermeier is the Opinions Editor and a senior staff writer for the University Chronicle.

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