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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 9, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 29
Salmah Y. Rizvi Named a 2007 Truman Scholar

Salmah Rizvi, second from right, celebrates the news of her scholarship at Nichols House with President William R. Brody, Wendy Brody and John Bader, associate dean for academic programs and advising.

By Amy Lunday

Scholars receive $30,000 for graduate study and are eligible for priority admission and supplemental financial aid at premier graduate institutions. They also receive leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and access to special internship opportunities within the federal government. Recipients must be U.S. citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills and be in the top quarter of their classes. Another Johns Hopkins student, Sarah David, received the award in 2006.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, which announced its latest group of scholars on March 27, was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to America's 33rd president.

This year's winners will meet in May for a weeklong leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., and receive their awards in a special ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo., on May 20.

Rizvi, 20, is a Hodson Trust Scholar at Johns Hopkins, majoring in international relations and anthropology. She would like to pursue a doctorate in law and a master's degree in public policy with a concentration in Islamic legal studies. Rizvi plans to continue translating and analyzing intelligence information at the Department of Defense, where she has spent the past three summers as an intern focused on language analysis. Later, she hopes to pursue a public service career with the State Department working on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Rizvi is the co-founder and chair of VisionXchange, a service and international relief organization on the Homewood campus. The group's goal, she says, is "to raise a lot of money for good causes while having an awesome time as well." VisionXchange has hosted a number of fun, stunt-based events to raise money for charity, including Top Model contests to raise awareness about human trafficking; College Idol contests to address the child soldier situation in northern Uganda; Shots for Shots, a basketball-themed fund-raiser pitting students against professors to benefit the Measles Initiative; and an attempt to set a new benchmark in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most couples simultaneously on blind dates.

Rizvi has been a student representative on the university's Diversity Leadership Council, a dancer on the Bhangra Dance team and an executive board member for the Johns Hopkins University Muslim Student Association and the Foreign Affairs Symposium.

Last semester, Rizvi lived and worked in Washington, D.C., as an Aitchison Fellow. There, she served as deputy director for the International Consortium on Fundamental Rights, an initiative housed by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. Sponsored by the institute, Rizvi traveled to Rome and helped organize the fourth annual Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom.

She has traveled extensively as a student ambassador promoting peace and stability and teaching international humanitarian law in such countries as Uganda and Iceland. As an active member of the Muslim-American community, Rizvi has also interned for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, published a number of papers regarding Islamic politics and volunteered with various Muslim organizations. She teaches Islamic history every Sunday at her local mosque, Idara-E-Jaferia Center in Burtonsville, Md.


Behind the Scenes: The Quest for a Prestigious Scholarship

A Marshall, a Mitchell, a Truman, a Luce and a Gates — five big awards so far during the 2006-2007 academic year, with the possibility of more good news to come when the Fulbright Scholars are announced later this spring and summer.

That Johns Hopkins is home to so many scholarship winners each year is a credit to its well-rounded, top-notch students. But it's also a nod to the behind-the-scenes guidance provided by John Bader, associate dean for academic programs and advising in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Each year, Bader said, his coaching process begins with one-on-one meetings with anywhere from five to 20 scholarship candidates who have the ambition and wherewithal to compete for national scholarships.

"I'll get to know them and help them figure out how to market themselves," Bader said. "So much about winning is finding out what is unique about you and how to pitch it to a scholarship committee."

From there, Bader helps students apply for the scholarships that are the best fit. Much of the focus is on essay writing, the amount and intensity of which varies from scholarship to scholarship. With the help of Sydney Green, administrative coordinator and longtime member of the Office of Academic Advising, mock interview panels consisting of faculty members and often including President Brody, are convened to pitch tough questions and offer feedback. All the while, Green makes sure the students' application paperwork is in order and filed in a timely fashion.

Bader, who traveled to India on a Fulbright Scholarship he received when he was at Yale, said that all the work that goes into the application process is beneficial, regardless of the outcome.

"Win or lose, the students are gaining important skills, whether they are pitching themselves for jobs or they go on to apply for other grants," Bader said. "Several who lose one award will go on to win another because they gain experience the first time around."

Though Bader and Green are based at Homewood, their help extends to the university's other divisions. Officially speaking, Bader's not a scholarship recruiter (a position at some other universities), though he encourages students to seek his guidance if they are applying for awards. "I work with a small stable of students, all of whom are self-electing, and I welcome others to come and talk to me," Bader said. "We can work on several projects to find the right fit for them and increase the odds that they'll win something."

The extra work paid off for 2007 Truman winner Salmah Rizvi. Bader recalled that Rizvi wasn't feeling well during either her mock interview or her real interview and that she was also one of the last candidates to go before the official panel, timing that compounded her nerves and her symptoms.

"Whether you are sick or not, no one is going to take mercy on you, and we didn't either in our practice sessions," Bader said. "I think the mock interview helped her think through how she could manage her energy and grit it out."

When the coaching comes to an end the big interview day arrives, Bader and Green cross their fingers and send the students into their interviews, hoping for the best.

"We get everyone to the point where they are in the best position to win, and that's what a good coach does," Bader said. "You hope they make the free throws, and if they don't, you hug them anyway, and if they do, you celebrate with them."


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