University of California, Irvine
The XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship The XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship

The Scholars

2012-2013: Soraya Azzawi

Soraya Azzawi is a UC Irvine senior majoring in neurobiology and political science and is the 2012 recipient of the Carol Becker McGaugh Award for outstanding research in the neurobiology of learning and memory.

Soraya was inspired by her own family’s experiences to apply for the UCI XIV Dalai Lama Scholarship. Her family was fortunate to leave Iraq before the Gulf War and settle in Southern California. “They could have easily ended up in a refugee camp. For this reason, I look forward to raising awareness of the unique challenges facing refugees globally.”

Soraya will use project funds from Dalai Lama Fellows to publish an on-line journal documenting humanitarian crises affecting refugees worldwide. She also plans to partner with local nonprofits to support English tutoring and furniture donations for local refugees.

Azzawi has taken advantage of a multitude of academic and extracurricular opportunities on campus. She has served as staff writer and news editor of the campus newspaper, New University, is a member of the Campuswide Honors Program, volunteers at Share Our Selves, and conducts research in the Wood Laboratory at UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory. In the summer of 2010, she traveled to Israel, Palestine and Jordan under UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative to promote dialogue and understanding about the Middle East conflict.

“Through the human rights journal and support for local refugees, I want to promote respect and compassion for individuals suffering from war-related trauma. We need both awareness and action to address the challenges facing victims of war and conflict.”
— Soraya Azzawi, 2012-13 Scholar

2011-2012: Armaan Ahmed Rowther

Armaan Ahmed Rowther is a UC Irvine junior double majoring in biological sciences and public health policy; he is also pursuing certification in conflict analysis and resolution. Armaan was born in Santa Ana into a family that includes Pakistani, Ladakhi and Tibetan backgrounds. A 1994 photograph of his grandfather, a former Pakistani diplomat, with the Dalai Lama graces the family’s Irvine home. His project was inspired by his family’s interfaith work with the Dalai Lama and previous UCI XIV Dalai Lama Scholarship recipients.

With project and funding support from the UCI Dalai Lama Scholarship and the Dalai Lama Fellows, Armaan has launched Leap of Faith UC Irvine. He is working with UCI student organizations and local community partners to foster interfaith kinship on campus and encourage coalition building between students and community members of varied faiths. Armaan’s work serves as the core of UCI’s campuswide interfaith initiative through the White House’s Interfaith and Community Service Challenge launched in spring 2011.

Armaan’s interfaith work will be featured through the Living Peace Series where he will serve as the moderator for a conversation with Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan at UCI on May 2, 2012.

“I believe that bridging divisions among people is crucial to solving many, if not all, of the most urgent problems facing our world today, from violent conflict to the destruction of the environment.”
— Armaan Ahmed Rowther, 2011-2012 Scholar

2010-2011: Bethel Mesgana and Doug Cheung

Bethel Mesgana is a UC Irvine senior double major in social sciences and biological sciences. Ten years ago she left Ethiopia with her family and came to the United States. She has been inspired by the compassionate dedication of her parents to pursue international social work and medicine.

Doug Cheung is a senior neurobiology major and cofounder of Students for Integrative Medicine at UCI. His decision to become a physician was catalyzed upon learning the diagnosis of his best friend.

When attending a lecture by His Holiness, Bethel and Doug were both inspired to pledge to become an embodiment of compassion through the practice of medicine.

With Dalai Lama scholarship funds, Mesgana and Cheung are creating a course and lecture series entitled “Compassion in Medicine” to cultivate the holistic understanding of illness and healing. Course members will connect first-hand with individuals who may be afflicted with terminal illness or disease, and with world-class experts and healers. Following the series, the experiences on “How to Cultivate Compassion” will be shared via community events and video recordings.

“I plan to dedicate my skills in community development, preventative care education and primary holistic health care with compassion to third world countries. The UCI Dalai Lama scholarship project will help equip numerous current and future caregivers with understanding the value of compassion and its essentialness in giving care.”
— Bethel Mesgana, 2010-11 Scholar

“Compassion is not just an ideology; it can also be expressed and practiced in tangible actions. By disseminating knowledge, we are bestowing a gift of compassion that could save a person’s life. Education is a powerful tool in cultivating compassion.”
— Doug Cheung, 2010-11 Scholar 

2009-2010: Jasmine Fang

Jasmine Fang

Jasmine Fang is a University of California, Irvine senior with a double major in business economics and public  health policy. Jasmine is involved in many facets of student life at UC Irvine. She has served as a peer consultant through the Career Center, acted as a liaison for students, parents and staff at Mesa Court housing, worked with graduate students in the School of Humanities, and participated in Club Sport tennis, qualifying for the national championships in 2008. Through UCI SAGE Scholars, a leadership program, Jasmine has worked for two years as an intern at Allergan, a world leader in the pharmaceutical industry, and she tutors and mentors high school students to help them achieve their dreams of attending college.

Fang plans to use the Dalai Lama Scholarship Funds to sponsor Kindness Month on the UCI campus in May 2010. Through strong collaboration with dozens of student organizations and community partners, Fang is coordinating a series of events and utilizing social networks to ignite “the passion of UCI students, professors and employees to volunteer and give back and show that a kind gesture can truly make a big difference in our world.” This campuswide initiative will engage the entire community in promoting kindness to others.

This summer, Jasmine participated in a volunteer mission to the Dominican Republic to teach public hygiene and build latrines for rural residents. Following graduation from UC Irvine in June 2010, she plans to work, pursue graduate studies and join the Peace Corps.

"I hope to ignite the passion of UCI students, faculty and staff members to volunteer and give back to the community. A kind gesture can truly make a big difference in our world."
— Jasmine Fang, 2009-10 Scholar 

2008-2009: Moran Cohen and Ali Malik

Moran Cohen and Ali Malik Moran Cohen is majoring in business economics. She was born in Haifa, Israel, and moved to the U.S. with her family when she was 12.

Ali Malik is a history major with a minor in religious studies. Through his study of U.S. history, he has learned how previous political and religious conflicts were resolved peacefully.

Cohen and Malik plan to use the scholarship funds to launch a yearlong forum on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, drawing on their experiences as part of the Olive Tree Initiative. Olive Tree Initiative comprises 14 student leaders from Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze and unaffiliated backgrounds who traveled in September to Israel and Palestine to see the faces and hear the voices of the people who are affected day-to-day. “It’s a campuswide project designed to increase awareness among UCI students and community members of the highly volatile political situation in the Middle East and the importance of creating peace in the region,” he says.

The goal is to create a forum in which students can express disparate political, social and religious ideologies in a rational and ethical manner.

Working with the Olive Tree Initiative, Cohen and Malik organized the UC Student Leadership Summit for their project.

“It is crucial to be educated, and to educate others about this conflict before shaping ones’ views. Learning to respect ‘the other’ is essential to achieving mutual peace, which defines the purpose of the initiative and the Dalai Lama scholarship project.”
— Moran Cohen, 2008-2009 Scholar

“Sensitivity to religious differences and maintaining a dialogue that does not compromise the integrity of one’s beliefs together lead to successful negotiations and thus peace.”
— Ali Malik, 2008-2009 Scholar

2007-2008: Rebecca Dawn Westerman

Becca PortRebecca Dawn Westerman is a University of California, Irvine senior majoring in art history. She is a remarkable young woman with a fervent passion to contribute to global peacemaking efforts. During the summer of 2006 Rebecca traveled to Thailand where she served in an orphanage and was inspired by the compassionate spirit of the monks there. She emphasizes art as a universal communication method to be used for raising social and moral questions.

Rebecca has been a Resident Advisor in Mesa Court as well as a Peer Academic Advisor for the School of Humanities. She was also a founding member of the Art History Undergraduate Association and was a Humanities Out There (HOT) tutor at Santa Ana High School. Throughout all of these activities, Rebecca has still managed to stay on the Dean’s List nearly every quarter she’s been at UCI.

Rebecca’s proposal, The UCI Peace Flag Project, aims to show the extent of conflict in our world and the extent to which peace is desperately needed. In May 2008, Aldrich Park will be circled with “peace flags” created by the UCI community. Modeled after, but distinct from, Tibetan prayer flags, The Peace Flag Project will raise awareness about all of the ongoing armed conflicts in our world and include positive messages for peace. Rebecca hopes The Peace Flag Project will prompt individuals to take local steps toward stopping global violence and work toward a peaceful planet for all of us.

“My studies were only truly meaningful if I used my education and privilege to act in the world.”
— Rebecca Dawn Westerman, 2007-2008 Scholar

2006-2007 Inaugural Scholars:
Rajiv Ramdeo and Aswathi Sreedharan
As published in Fall 2006

UCI students meet with XIV Dalai Lama and receive scholarships named in his honor

UC Irvine has selected two students to receive the inaugural XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship, recognizing a commitment to ethics and leadership on campus and in the community. The undergraduate winners met with His Holiness on Tuesday, Sept. 12, in Pasadena, Calif. (read more)

The XIV Dalai Lama with the Scholars
Ramdeo (left), the XIV Dalai Lama, Sreedharan (right)

I am happy to learn that young students [at UC Irvine] are studying and practicing the work of ethics, peace and positive global relations through The XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship. I have always believed that the world will be happier and more peaceful if people nurtured these important human values.
– His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama



The XIV Dalai Lama with the ScholarsRamdeo (left), Chancellor Drake, Sreedharan (right)

The XIV Dalai Lama with the ChancellorChancellor Drake (left), the XIV Dalai Lama (right)

Aswathi Sreedharan is a University of California, Irvine junior, double-majoring in biomedical engineering and international studies, with a minor in conflict studies. She moved to the United States from India when she was 15 years old and has been an extremely active member of the UCI campus. A Chancellor’s Club Scholar, Aswathi has received the Chancellor’s Excellence award every year, and is a member of several honor societies. She holds a research fellowship through the Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

She is known to be an energetic, enthusiastic, thoughtful and compassionate person. For The XIV Dalai Lama Scholarship project, Aswathi plans to organize a statewide camp for universities and colleges student leaders to encourage unity and support peace around the world – an expanded version of a project she helped initiate last year.

“This scholarship will allow me to build an annual student gathering for promising future leaders who are grounded in compassionate leadership and humanitarian values. Together we can approach our local work with global responsibility. The camp will unite the physical and intellectual so we can learn how to establish harmony while addressing world suffering.
— Aswathi Sreedharan, Inaugural Scholar 2006-2007


Rajiv Ramdeo is a University of California, Irvine junior, majoring in biological sciences with a minor in African-American studies. Rajiv hopes to become a physician so he can work toward more effective public health policy. He has excelled in his studies and has spent two years carrying out sponsored research on meditation at the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine.

Rajiv is tenacious, generous and compassionate. One of his role models is His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. After he heard the Dalai Lama speak at UCI in 2004, Rajiv took the initiative to establish the Association of Undergraduate Meditation at UCI. Through the club, Rajiv is exposing students to a variety of meditation methods and philosophies. A longtime practitioner of meditation, he wants to help others experience meditation as a way of developing inner peace. For The XIV Dalai Lama Scholarship project, Rajiv plans to expand the club, bringing a wide variety of individuals to campus to discuss meditation, humanitarian work and ethical leadership.

“I try to follow the Dalai Lama’s example, in that he doesn’t endorse a specific religion, but explains how we can apply spiritual teachings to our lives, achieve a sense of inner peace and encourage peace around the world. In our global society, we need bridges so that we can work together. There is scientific support that meditation is a powerful tool to allow more individual peace and health. Being at peace ignites our ability to act ethically and with compassion.
— Rajiv Ramdeo, Inaugural Scholar 2006-2007