Rangel Scholar promotes justice at home, abroad

Usama Ibrahim, a dual-degree candidate in neuroscience and political science at UIC.

“Knowledge can be the key to change,” says Usama Ibrahim, a sophomore in neuroscience and political science. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services


Living in Brooklyn at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center helped shape Usama Ibrahim’s interest in U.S. policy and foreign politics.

“It was an interesting dynamic at that time as a young Muslim-American living in New York,” he said. “There were most certainly circumstances where individuals in the community expressed their discomfort with our being there.”

Ibrahim, a sophomore in neuroscience and political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is one of 15 scholars selected nationwide for the 2015 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Summer Enrichment Program.

He is the first UIC student chosen for the six-week program, which promotes greater diversity in U.S. representation abroad.

Co-sponsored by the U.S. State Department and Howard University’s Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center, the program provides a stipend and covers the costs for tuition, travel, meals and housing.

Beginning in late June, Ibrahim will live at Howard University and take two courses and a seminar on U.S. foreign policy, economics and writing. He’ll participate in a programs with foreign affairs professionals at Howard and around Washington, D.C.

A student in the Honors College, Ibrahim says he likes studying Middle Eastern and international politics but is equally concerned with domestic and international human rights.

“We are a country that promotes democratic ideals, so we should be the ones standing up against potentially dangerous situations for those that are not necessarily American,” Ibrahim said.

“It should be our responsibility as global citizens to spread awareness of injustices occurring domestically and abroad. Knowledge can be the key to change.”

Ibrahim, a resident of Lemont, said a career in politics and public service has been his goal since childhood.

A 2013 graduate of Universal School in Bridgeview, he was admitted to UIC with the President’s Award Program Honors Scholarship, a four-year tuition and housing scholarship.

He received a 2015 Chancellor’s Student Service and Leadership Award for commitment to service and community engagement.

Through the Peer Health Exchange volunteer program, he teaches health workshops in Chicago Public Schools that would not otherwise have a health curriculum. As a member of the group’s leadership council, he teaches and mentors other undergraduates to teach the workshops.

He is president of Healing Arts, a UIC student volunteer organization that provides art programs for schoolchildren. He is also a UIC Honors Ambassador, helping prospective and incoming Honors College freshmen.

The Rangel Scholar program is named for Charles Rangel, now serving his 23rd term as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 13th Congressional District of New York.


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