MPOWER Global Citizen Scholarship Winners Include IBM Watson Fellow and Legal Activist

by Juliet Terrill | In In The News | 5 February 2020 | Updated on: March 19th, 2021

MPOWER Financing is excited to announce the winners for our Global Citizen Scholarship! Our Fall 2019 cycle ended November 15th, and our scholarship committee reviewed 497 eligible applications from over 90 countries and over 165 universities. Our team was once again impressed by the talent and hard work of all our applicants. After a difficult deliberation, our scholarship committee selected a grand prize winner to receive $5,000, plus four regional winners who will receive $3,000 each. These winners include international students from Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Brazil, and Hong Kong. The dedication and potential of these students are inspirational, and we are thrilled to attract such strong applicants to our scholarship program. Read on below for their impressive profiles!

Afshin Khan, IBM Watson Fellow Aiming to Advance Healthcare in Resource-Limited Areas

Grand Prize Winner; Pakistan, Tulane University School of Medicine

Afshin is a medical student at Tulane University. She grew up in Pakistan, and fought many barriers to her education as a woman in a conservative country. In her application essay, Afshin wrote about her childhood, “Despite the death threats, my mother smuggled me out of Khyber and made it her life’s mission to educate me. When I was young, she hid me underneath her burqa as she carried me to school.”

Afshin’s drive and passion carried her through to adulthood, when she was awarded the prestigious IBM Watson Fellowship. With this honor, Afshin studied and traveled to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, and South Africa, learning about the socioeconomic differences in healthcare that existed globally.

This inspired Afshin to pursue a Master of Public Health, and, after having the opportunity to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), she developed a vaccine to protect against MRSA, an antibiotic resistant staph infection. Now in medical school at Tulane, Afshin hopes to pursue a fellowship in gastroenterology. In her essay, she wrote, “Gastrointestinal illnesses, including infectious diseases like cholera and hepatitis remain some of the biggest contributors to suffering and death in the world. I intend to use this knowledge to advance innovative but sustainable, cheaper alternatives that could be used in resource-limited settings, including the U.S., but also the larger world population who aren’t as fortunate as resource heavy settings when it comes to high quality care.”

“I am incredibly thrilled to receive the MPOWER Global Citizen Scholarship that will alleviate significant financial burden.” Afshin said. “I will be able to focus my energy and time on pursuing the art and science of medicine to improve the lives of marginalized communities.”

Geetika Pandya, Advocate for Women’s Rights in Rural Communities

Regional Winner – India; University of California, Berkeley

Geetika is pursuing a Master of Development Practice at UC Berkeley and has been a champion for social change from a young age. In her scholarship application, she wrote of her progressive upbringing in India and how it shaped her as a changemaker. Her work in the development sector started with an analysis of the effects of solar power in rural India at the age of 16.

Geetika was on a gap year working in Jharkhand when she discovered her passion for improving opportunities for women. In her essay, she wrote about her accomplishments during this period: “Over 3 months, I trained nearly 700 women in concepts of financial literacy through regular sessions.” She then went on to work with an NGO in New Delhi to enable women leaders to take more initiative in their communities. This past summer, her impressive work continued in Myanmar, where she, “[lead] a research [team] for women’s menstrual hygiene management with WaterAid.”

“Thank you for choosing my application to the MPOWER Global Citizen Scholarship!” Geetika said. “This award is a huge contribution to my graduate education in International Development, which I hope will enable me to be an agent of change for women’s rights.”

Ifeanyi Odurukwe, Pro-Bono Lawyer Educating the Public on “Jungle Justice”

Regional Winner  Africa; Nigeria, Tulane University School of Law

Ifeanyi, a Master of Laws (LLM) student at Tulane University, is already a lawyer in his home country of Nigeria. His powerful scholarship essay told the story of his own searing experiences with “jungle justice,” a practice by which some members of the public, often a mob, take justice into their own hands, resulting in extrajudicial killings or other punishments for alleged crimes.

He wrote a chilling account of his own experience with “jungle justice” when he was just 14 years old: “My mom was critically ill, I veered into Effurun market, Warri, Nigeria, to beg for money to buy her medicine. Suddenly, I felt something hit me hard, it was a bag. Almost immediately, a young man ran past with the speed of light. Then came the crowd with chants. ‘Thief!’ In that split second of confusion, I dropped the bag and ran. But my feeble legs could barely run fast. The crowd caught up with me. Slaps, knocks, punches, followed instantly. Despite my pleas and cries, tires were rolled out and flung over me. I felt the sensation of gasoline poured over my body. My life flashed before my eyes. I was to die for a crime I did not commit. In the nick of time, two men ran to the scene, dragging along the young man who stole the bag. With the same velocity, the tires were removed from my body and put on the man’s body. He was set on fire, and no one could do anything about it, no one did. I will never forget that day.”

This experience spurred Ifeanyi to pursue a law career in Nigeria. After getting his law degree, he was then motivated to “offer free representation to indigent persons in detention.” In his essay, Ifeanyi also wrote about his “Street Lawyering” project, which aims to educate his community about the law and reduce the prevalence of extrajudicial killings. Ifeanyi has big goals for the future and hopes to, “form an [NGO], as a tool for proposing ideas and solutions to reposition the Nigerian Justice System.”

“The impact MPOWER makes through its Global Citizen Scholarship cannot be overemphasized. It has helped so many young people around the world to rekindle and realize their dreams,” Ifeanyi said. “As a recipient of the award, my once sizzling drive has been re-invigorated. This recognition is confirmation that I am on the right path to effecting the change which many desire to see in the Nigerian Legal Sector and the legal community as a global village. MPOWER has become a part of this journey.”


Gabriel Reichelt, Social Impact Scholar Marketing for Change

Regional Winner  Latin America; Brazil, Hult International Business School, Boston

Gabriel is pursuing a Master of International Marketing at Hult, but his international education began earlier as a child in India and Spain, providing him with an incomparable opportunity to experience other cultures. In lieu of a traditional scholarship essay, Gabriel submitted a PowerPoint presentation that displayed the many social projects to which he has contributed.

During his tenure at the junior ad agency CO.DE, Gabriel increased the share of social impact projects in their portfolio, from 20 percent to roughly half. These projects include, “[providing] free graphic design services and advertisement,” to Mama Solidária, a breast reconstruction NGO in Brazil, as well as creating a video motif for the Public Ministry of Porto Alegre, “to raise awareness among children, teenagers and guardians of the risk of sharing pictures containing nudity, pornography or obscenity through the internet.” He wrote, “My ultimate goal is to shape the worldwide business landscape to be more socially and environmentally conscious.”

“MPOWER has been vital for making my studies abroad a possibility, and being selected for the Global Citizen Scholarship is an indescribable feeling.” Gabriel said. “This award will aid the pursuit of my dreams and allow me to continue investing in myself. I’m very thankful for the opportunity and will continue to recommend MPOWER´s services to students going abroad.”

Michelle Lui, Founder of Two Start-ups and Mentor to Social Entrepreneurs

Regional Winner  Asia (Excluding India); Hong Kong, University of California, Berkeley

Michelle is a mentor to social entrepreneurs, pursuing a career change with her Master of Development Practice from UC Berkeley. As a self-defined ‘global citizen’, Michelle wrote about her travel to 24 countries in her scholarship essay, and how through this she found her purpose, “my calling in life is to become a social entrepreneur and facilitate the leapfrogging process in developing countries with tech solutions.”

Already the founder of two technology start-ups, Michelle hopes her time at UC Berkeley will prove to “[advance] my knowledge in economics, science, public health and management topics,” to become a more informed development practitioner. As an advisor with Enactus, the global community of social entrepreneurs, Michelle mentored innovative projects on food waste, solar cars design, and safe water fountain construction.

“With an entrepreneurship and social innovation background, I aspire to create groundbreaking solutions in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals published by the United Nations.” Michelle said. “Currently pursuing a Master of Development Practice program at UC Berkeley, I am getting prepared to be a practitioner in the development field and acquiring the skills and perspectives to drive sustainable development in emerging markets. I am truly thankful to be awarded the MPOWER Global Citizen Scholarship. The MPOWERment and financial support means a lot in my development journey!”

Author: View all post by Juliet Terrill

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