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Quest for Social Justice Takes Honors Student to Copenhagen


By Elizabeth Cregan
August 5, 2018 

The Humanity in Action Fellowship is a nationally competitive scholarship that brings together Nour Haikalinternational groups of university students and recent graduates to explore national histories of discrimination and resistance, as well as their ramifications for various minority groups today. This summer, the Humanity in Action Fellowship has taken rising junior Nour Haikal to Copenhagen, Denmark, where she is spending four weeks studying common roots of prejudice, discrimination, and the resounding effects of racist policies and collapsed regimes. 

“The objective of the Humanity in Action Fellowship program,” says Haikal, “is to facilitate a collective exploration of the social and political roots of discrimination, as well as to provide a forum where potential solutions to some of today's most challenging issues can be considered and discussed.”

Haikal initially came to the University of Houston as a petroleum engineering student, but quickly realized that her passions lay elsewhere. She soon switched to a liberal studies major and was selected to be a part of the 3+3 Dual Law Degree Program. Currently, she is a Middle Eastern studies major and aPhronêsisminor. She is actively involved in multiple groups on campus, including Model Arab League, Bonner Leaders Program, Students for Justice in Palestine, Houston Scholars, and Model G20. 

Beyond her studies, Haikal always finds a way to express her interest in social justice and human rights. One such way has been her focus on helping the incoming refugee community in Houston. Haikal currently works with Project T.R.E.E. (Teaching Refugees Effective English), which provides one-on-one ESL tutoring to incoming adult refugees.

Nour Haikal and studentsThrough the Humanity in Action Fellowship, Haikal learned a lot about how to critically approach social justice issues. She was particularly struck by the diverse network of other fellows she met––students from Bosnia, France, Scotland, The Faroe Islands, Greece, Denmark, and Germany. “Having constructive dialogue with all these fellows helped shape my perspective on different social justice issues, and my critical role in deconstructing certain narratives,” she said.  

With her experience aiding refugees, Haikal knew exactly what she wanted to focus on within the Humanity in Action Fellowship. And with the help of Ben Rayder, director of National Fellowships and Major Awards, she was able to articulate these interests in her HIA application. 

What is Haikal’s advice to students who may be interested in exploring these opportunities?

“Apply, apply, apply! Identify the topics or issues that make you tick, and then transform these passions into action by applying to fellowships. Identify your strengths and build on them by creating a personal narrative.” She adds, “Do not just provide statistics, but show the human behind the numbers.”