Zaakir Tameez of Houston will spend June in Berlin studying human rights issues.
Tameez, a second-year student at the University of Virginia double-majoring in economics and political and social thought, received a fellowship from Humanity in Action, an international educational organization designed to educate, inspire and connect a global network of students, young professionals and established leaders committed to promoting human rights, diversity and active citizenship in their own communities and around the world. Humanity in Action is non-profit and non-partisan. The fellowship pays all Tameez’s expenses, including travel, tuition and lodging.
Tameez is one of 37 participants from the United States. There are approximately 150 participants worldwide, selected from an applicant pool of around 700.
“This fellowship gives me the opportunity to explore human rights issues in-depth, meet with people who lived through human rights violations and brainstorm solutions with other passionate students,” Tameez said. “Two other topics which really fascinate me are education and economics. Hopefully, I’ll get to see how German public schools and universities impact the minority experience, as well as how German economic policy shapes the social climate.”
Tameez will spend the month of June in Berlin with students from eight countries – Bosnia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Ukraine and the United States – learning about topics that will include the Holocaust and the modern Syrian refugee crisis.
“It’s going to be a lot of historic and modern site visits, meetings with local community leaders, talks from German political figures, conversations with regular people on the streets and debates with other students around these issues,” Tameez said.
Andrus G. Ashoo, associate director of UVA’s Center for Undergraduate Excellence, said Tameez was among the few first-year students to attend Ashoo’s workshops last year on potential scholarships, which he said demonstrated Tameez cares about more than selecting a major or landing his first job.
“When Zaakir asks to meet, he comes with questions that reveal to me that he is not only listening when I put challenges before him, but also taking ownership of the decisions he makes,” Ashoo said. “The Humanity in Action Fellowship is one of the most intellectually and emotionally taxing programs because of the nature and amount of content covered in a short period of time with a diverse group of people. Zaakir is drawn to difficult questions and impossible circumstances, and he is delightful to be around, to which many of his peers regularly attest. I’m looking forward to what he will learn and how he will grow this summer in Germany.”
An Echols Scholar and a Posse Scholar, Tameez is director of state relations on the UVA Student Council, a member of the Muslim Students Association and director of strategic partnerships and development for ReinventED Lab, a Charlottesville-based non-profit building a community of creative problem-solvers in education. A graduate of Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston, Tameez is considering a career in law or economics.
“I’m really humbled and honored to have won this fellowship,” he said. “Human rights violations are complex issues, with complex causes, so bridging broad academic knowledge with in-person visits in Berlin will be a unique experience. It’s a rare opportunity that I’m extremely grateful for, so I commit to doing my best to make the most out of it.”