Schools emulate GW Sudanese scholarship

Two years ago, a student organization at GW designed a scholarship program to bring in a student from war-torn Sudan.

Now, the program has spread to more than 30 college campuses nationwide.

The student organization Banaa – an Arabic word meaning “to build” – was created at GW in 2008, and seeks to empower students from Sudan and foster a generation of peacemaking leaders by inviting a Sudanese refugee to study at GW.

After hearing about the program at GW, other schools across the country decided to emulate the scholarship program.

The University of Rochester brought in a Sudanese student scholar for the first time this semester.

Joseph Gardella, chair of Banaa at Rochester, said a friend told him about the program at GW and soon enough, the school’s dean of admissions was on board.

“We can already see that [the scholar] will be helping everybody he meets, and he already does when he can,” Gardella said. “I can foresee that this will make, hopefully, a larger positive impact.”

Gardella said the group plans to bring another Sudanese scholar to Rochester next year and every following year indefinitely, as long as student and financial support remain strong.

Students at Tufts University, Goucher College and about 30 other schools are working with administrators to support their own scholars.

Aside from other colleges across the country adopting Banaa, Evan Faber, a GW alumnus and co-founder of Banaa, said GW is exploring the possibility of hosting a new student scholar next fall and is working to institutionalize the scholarship.

“Imagine people who only meet in battlefields. learning together,” Faber said. “Banaa is about the commitment to bringing long-term peace to a country that’s only known war.”

Scholarship recipients return to Sudan with a deeper understanding of the intricacies of conflict, which is what the country needs, Faber said.

Makwei Mabioor Deng, the Banaa scholar at GW, said the four-year scholarship has given him a chance to travel overseas and experience living with people of different backgrounds.

In Sudan, he said, people spend most of their lives in one tribe speaking a common language, perpetuating divisions among different parts of the nation.

“If you just know one place and one way of life, once you come here, you learn about new ideas, you learn how to interact with new people,” Deng said.

Deng, now a junior, is majoring in philosophy and said the skills he has learned will help him become a leader.

“I wanted to understand reasoning, looking at things from a different perspective,” Deng said. “With philosophy, I try to understand different arguments and how you can make a plan.”

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