XIV Dalai Lama scholarship goes to students seeking understanding in Middle East
- October 28, 2008
- 2008 recipients Moran Cohen, business economics major, and Ali Malik, history major, are also Olive Tree Initiative student leaders
Two undergraduates were named recipients of the XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship,
established in 2004 to recognize UC Irvine students with a demonstrated commitment
to ethics and leadership on campus and in the community.
Moran Cohen and Ali Malik each will receive $7,500 and will share an additional $2,500 to promote peace through compassionate, constructive dialogue. They plan to use the 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. The students, all from UCI, included members of Anteaters for Israel, Hillel, Muslim Student Union, Society of Arab Students and other campus organizations.
Cohen and Malik joined this diverse student group on a two-week visit that included stops in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Haifa and other cities within Israel and Palestinian territories. They talked with academics, community and religious leaders, and activists with firsthand knowledge of the conflict.
Olive Tree Initiative was founded in 2007 by UCI students inspired by the need to discuss constructively and respectfully conditions and issues in Israel and Palestine. They were motivated by a desire to see the faces and hear the voices of the people who are affected day-to-day.
Malik helped spearhead the initiative.
"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.
"In addition, the goal is to create a forum in which students can express disparate political, social and religious ideologies in a rational and ethical manner."
A history major with a minor in religious studies, Malik joined the initiative to live up to the imperative of spreading peace and creating a more perfect world. Through his study of U.S. history, he has learned how previous political and religious conflicts were resolved peacefully. Born to Muslim parents, Malik says his religious studies and upbringing have taught him "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."
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. UCI was her number one choice for higher education and she says she has never doubted her decision. As a freshman, she dove into academics and involvement in campus student organizations such as Anteaters for Israel and Hillel.
"It is crucial to be educated, and to educate others about this conflict before shaping ones' views," Cohen says. "Learning to respect the other' is essential to achieving mutual peace, which defines the purpose of the initiative and the Dalai Lama scholarship project."
Cohen first heard of the Dalai Lama scholarship in May while she was helping her clubs create flags for the UCI Peace Flag Project, an undertaking of the 2007 Dalai Lama scholar, Rebecca Westerman. More than 1,000 flags created by students and community groups fluttered around the perimeter of Aldrich Park. Modeled after Tibetan prayer flags, each included a message about an ongoing armed conflict.
Malik also learned of the scholarship through a prior recipient, Rajiv Ramdeo, who used his funding to establish a meditation club and an umbrella organization for student clubs called the Spiritual Alliance.
Last spring, Malik met Cohen through the Olive Tree Initiative and encouraged her to apply for the scholarship along with him.
"I am extremely pleased that Ali Malik and Moran Cohen were selected as this year's Dalai Lama scholars," said Manuel N. Gomez, vice chancellor of student affairs, who accompanied the students on the Middle East trip. "Their commitment to peaceful and compassionate dialogue exemplifies the values and ideals of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was impressed to see how they truly connected and listened to all views and ideas."
Cohen and Malik say their Israel visit far surpassed expectations. Through interactions with the people, they gained a deeper understanding of complex issues at stake in the Middle East. Cohen and Malik say they look forward to promoting respectful, rational dialogue among fellow students and in the broader Orange County community by sharing their experiences and observations in public forums. The first event was held Oct. 23 at UCI Student Center.
---Cathy Lawhon, University Communications