Meet the Inaugural Cohort

Meet the Inaugural Cohort

The Columbia University Scholarship for Displaced Students supports displaced students from anywhere in the world by offering them full scholarships to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees across Columbia’s 19 schools and affiliates. 

As part of this first-ever Columbia-wide scholarship, and the world's first scholarship of its kind, we are pleased to announce our inaugural cohort of 18 students. Selected from over 1,200 applicants, these students originate from 13 countries, and will attend 12 different Columbia schools.

We are honored to welcome our inaugural cohort. Click on their individual profiles below to learn more about their incredible journeys.

(Note: a number of scholarship students wished to remain anonymous due to their sensitive statuses.)

Participating Schools
  • Columbia College
  • Columbia Law School
  • Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
  • Graduate School of Journalism
  • Mailman School of Public Health
  • School of General Studies
  • School of International and Public Affairs
  • School of Professional Studies
  • School of Social Work
  • School of the Arts
  • Teachers College
Countries of Origin
  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Cameroon
  • China
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Haiti
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • South Sudan
  • Syria
  • Turkey
  • Venezuela


School of Professional Studies (Syria)

Sami is a human rights activist and published researcher on sectarianism, socioeconomic disparities and human rights abuses in the MENA region. He served at the UN House (ESCWA) in Beirut and UN Security Council Affairs Division (UNDPPA) in New York City and has a strong background in UN peacebuilding and peacekeeping commissions and international human rights mechanisms and tribunals.


Columbia Journalism School (Nigeria)

Ohimai is a journalist, social change advocate, and online publisher that was appointed as Microsoft ambassador in the campaign against cybercrime in Nigeria, set a record as Nigeria’s youngest presidential campaign manager, and served as a ministerial advisor in four federal ministries from 2011 to 2015.



School of International and Public Affairs (Syria)

Asaad is a strategic analyst and media advisor specializing in high conflict and crisis regions from Iran to Haiti. Asaad served in the Office of the Chairman of the White Helmets and has worked with international media outlets and think tanks such the Guardian in the UK, Al Jazeera English, Al-Monitor, and many other Arabic media outlets.



Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (China)

Helennara was a socio-political refugee and is currently a poet working on furthering the study of state censorship of popular culture.



Columbia Law School (Turkey)

Nevfel’s Ph.D. studies at Ankara HBV University focused on legal liabilities of directors of corporations. He currently studies and is interested in Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Law.



General Studies (Syria - Iraq)

Sumar graduated from ‘’Al Arabi’’ music conservatoire in Aleppo in 2009, was then forced to flee Syria to Iraq, and then displaced again during his third year of medical school. He is now pursuing neuromedical science and medical school in the United States.



General Studies (Syria)

Otto is interested in arts and cultures and how architecture can improve the lives of people through the ethical concerns architecture demands from designers in the context of climate change.



School of Social Work (South Sudan)

Dawood has a bachelors and a masters degree in economics and is the founder of a nonprofit that brings technology to South Sudan.



School of Social Work (Ethiopia)

Etsegenet was a licensed, practicing lawyer prior to displacement and her future career goals are to serve vulnerable groups of people through government based policy changes.



School of International and Public Affairs (Venezuela)

Erick is a Venezuelan organizer for the Venezuelan diaspora in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut where he has been connecting and acting as a liaison for diverse initiatives, including demonstrations and forums to raise awareness on the Venezuelan crisis.



School of Engineering (Eritrea)

Fitwi is studying Mechanical Engineering where he is focusing on the design and control of automatic, robotic, and smart systems. Fitwi has a profound desire to have a major global impact through his work.



Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Afghanistan)

Shabnam was born in Afghanistan in 1996, the year the Taliban came to power, before fleeing to Quetta, Pakistan, where she lived in a refugee community and is now focusing on human rights studies with a concentration on refugees and forced migration.



Teacher's College (Haiti)

Yves is an openly gay Haitan asylee who serves as a social worker, public health practitioner, mental health counselor, holistic strategist and writer.