New Cohort of International Student Citizen Leader Fellows


New Cohort of International Student Citizen Leader Fellows

International Student Citizen Leader Fellows Headshot Compilation

he International Student Citizen Leaders Fellowship has chosen a new cohort of fellows for this academic year. The fellowship hopes to encourage and enable international students to play a leading role in making UVA a place where international students can thrive and gives a set of tools to carry out an original community building project which grows out of their experiences, interests and values, says International Student and Scholar Advisor Caren Freeman.

The fellowship is a collaboration between the International Student and Scholar Program and the Contemplative Sciences Center and is run by Freeman and Leslie Hubbard, Program Director of Student Engagement and Contemplative Instruction for the Contemplative Sciences Center.

Each student works on a project as part of the fellowship. This year, the students’ projects center around making the university a friendlier place for international students, whether during the application process or upon arrival. Both Harsh Anand and Siddharth Singh are working on creating resources (a reference guide and workshops, website, and pamphlets, respectively) to ease the transition to UVA. Oriane Guiziou-Lamour and Nnenna Onyima are developing spaces for subgroups of international students (LGBTQ+ identifying students and African students, respectively) to build community and take a break from academic studies. Hang Nguyen is working on creating a series of workshops for international students to demystify the graduate school application process and Pablo Garcia Silva will put together information sessions on applying to internships and jobs once here.

It is important to create a compassionate community of international students to support each other not only during their tough times but also during the time of celebration, a community where diversity is celebrated and encouraged.

When asked about the vision for her project to organize university-wide events for international students to alleviate the sense of “estrangement,” Farzana Yasmin Ahmad reflected the sentiments of many of this year’s projects, “It is important to create a compassionate community of international students to support each other not only during their tough times but also during the time of celebration, a community where diversity is celebrated and encouraged.”

Farzana Yasmin Ahmad headshot
Farzana Yasmin Ahmad

This fellowship is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. As part of the fellowship, students take a self-paced online learning module in the fall and a one-credit short course (INST 2559 Flourishing Practicum for Citizen Leaders) in the spring and work on their project over the course of one year. The course weaves together two curricular components. One curricular thread centers around ethical leadership where students will learn concepts and participate in exercises to help them learn to lead “from the inside out.” The other centers around design skills, program management, communication skills, and qualitative research methods. Students learn both contemplative practices and ethnographic research methods, as well as receive intensive training in public speaking.

“The contemplative training fellows receive helps to develop the capacity to find a sense of home, to remain receptive and connected to others when confronting emotionally difficult situations or differences of worldview, and to quite literally walk around Grounds embodying the core values they identify as both important to them as individuals and central to their community building projects,” asserts Hubbard, who spent eight years under the tutelage of the world-renowned Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.

“Anthropological methods strengthen contemplative capacities by training students to be active listeners and keen observers,” adds Freeman, who holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from UVA. “Fellows conduct ongoing ethnographic research throughout the year to continuously rethink their projects, making them more responsive to community needs, and at the end of the fellowship, to assess and illustrate the impact of their projects.”

As the culmination of their experience, fellows present the results of their projects in a public forum. Last year’s presentation was attended by President Jim Ryan, Vice President Robyn Hadley and Vice Provost for Global Affairs Steve Mull.

Hubbard and Freeman are also thinking about scaling up the fellowship for the future: “This year we commissioned Professor of Education and Co-PI of the Student Flourishing Initiative to conduct an IRB-approved qualitative study to document and assess the extent to which the fellowship helps international students (as well as student-athletes who are also participants in the fellowship) feel a greater sense of belonging, personal agency, and purpose. If proven effective, the fellowship can be scaled up to include more international students and student athletes and possibly be extended to other groups on Grounds that have unique pressures and those interested in taking a contemplative and ethnographic approach to promoting greater flourishing at UVA.”


The International Fellows for this year are:

Farzana Yasmin Ahmad (Computer Science, Bangladesh)

Harsh Anand (Systems Engineering, India)

Oriane Guiziou-Lamour (French Language and Literature, France)

Hang Nguyen (Statistics, Vietnam/ North Carolina)

Nnenna Onyima (French Language and Literatures, Nigeria)

Adi Raghavan (Economics and Statistics, India)

Peihong Shi (Economics, China)

Siddharth Singh (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, India)

Pablo Garcia Silva (Economics, Colombia)

Lingyu Yang (Physics, China)


Along with two international students in the Student Athlete Citizen Leader Fellowship:

Umberto Pela (Commerce, Italy)

Virginia Bossi (Foreign Affairs, Italy)