Recent Ph.D. recipient Sheefteh Khalili has quite a bit to celebrate this summer. In addition to being hooded for completing her graduate degree in sociology and having recently started a new position in the Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor at UCI, she will be recognized at the 2017 Order of Merit awards ceremony on June 16 for her receipt of the Outstanding Service Award.
It is a well-earned recognition; Khalili has been dedicated to making the university a better place throughout her graduate program. She served as a guest lecturer and student mentor with Global Connect; taught the UCI Summer Bridge class – one that helps first-gen college students successfully transition to university life – for three years; and was actively involved with the Department of Sociology, including serving as a founding member and participant in the Race Research Workshop which helps graduate students improve all aspects of their scholarship and professionalism. In addition, she was heavily involved with DECADE (Diverse Educational Community and Doctoral Experience) for five years. There, she held a role as a research assistant before earning a fellowship through DECADE to work with professor Ann Hironaka on projects aimed at empowering and educating graduate students from diverse backgrounds, included first-generation grad students. And just last year, she worked with the program to create an initiative within the Department of Sociology that focused on accountability and awareness for members of the department.
But giving back is not a new hobby for Khalili – her father, Nader Khalili, founded the nonprofit Cal-Earth that Sheefteh has been running since his passing in 2008. The vision of the organization, and what she has strived to achieve as its director, is to help solve the global housing crisis through her father’s building technology that builds secure, one-person structures in just a day. It’s her father’s legacy that really instilled in her a desire to help others.
“My father always taught us to have a quest that was bigger than ourselves and that was in service to humanity,” Khalili says. “He wrote five books during his life, and in one of them (Racing Alone), he says, ‘My quests became more meaningful when my goals met with others’ needs and goals. And I became important, in my own heart, only when I reached the others, as a drop of water becomes important only when it reaches the sea.’ This is why I prioritize service – my parents raised me with this type of framework and I approach all aspects of my life in this same way.”
Now, Khalili hopes to continue this heritage of service through her career, which includes the assessment and implementation of various student initiatives and programs on campus, all aimed at increasing student success. She will also continue to be involved with Cal-Earth in an advisory role.
“It is the legacy of my family, and it keeps me connected to serving others in a very unique way.”