International Studies Grad Channels Compassion Into Action
At the University of St. Thomas, International Studies major Hiba Haroon learned to look at the world through new eyes.
Participating in the Center for International Studies Social Entrepreneurship Program (formerly known as the MicroCredit Program) presented Haroon with opportunities to put her passion to help others into action. From granting microloans to entrepreneurs in developing countries to traveling to Turkey, Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique, Haroon witnessed global social problems first-hand while learning ways to assist individuals improve their economic circumstances.
Haroon completed her UST studies in December, but she is among the 328 undergraduates and 350 graduate students who will participate in the commencement ceremony on May 14. Haroon’s academic adventures will continue at Syracuse University in the fall, where she will pursue a Master of Science in Cultural Foundations of Education with specializations in Sociology of Education and Disabilities Studies. Her career goals focus around reforming public school education so that it is more inclusive and critically challenging for today’s youth.
“I transferred to UST in 2008 specifically to major in International Studies,” Haroon said. “The small classes and rigorous curriculum challenged me to question my own beliefs and ideas. Not only did we learn about pressing global issues, but how to study them from various perspectives.
“I enjoyed Dr. Pett-Conklin and Dr. Stockton’s classes, because they always held higher expectations for me than I did for myself. I also loved Dr. Garcia-Contreras’ classes; he constantly pushed me to become an independent and creative thinker,” she said. “ I remember leaving his classes with far more questions than answers, which motivated me to study and explore issues in a thorough and unconventional manner. The Social Entrepreneurship Program was the perfect way for me to channel all that curiosity and knowledge into action.”
Haroon said the most influential undergraduate experience was the trip to Africa in January 2011.
“The experience literally changed me,” Haroon said. “I saw that having pity for people is a waste of time. We can be compassionate, but instead of feeling sorry, we should utilize our abilities and outreach. I saw that the people had such a sense of empowerment and they knew exactly what they needed to improve their circumstances. They just need some help getting there.”
Haroon’s transformation has extended to her family as well. As a first-generation college student in a first-generation family from Pakistan, Haroon initially had to dispel her family’s notion that medicine and engineering are the only sensible and successful career paths.
“My parents didn’t understand; they thought I had lost focus, but when they finally saw how happy I was at UST and how much I loved what I was learning, they were so much more supportive,” Haroon said. “Seeing how my experience at UST has transformed me, my parents could not be any more proud. My dad actually calls me his hero.”
While at UST, Haroon was a board member of the Social Entrepreneurship Program and director of SEP’s Hashoo project, which granted microloans to 100 honey bee farming women in Northern Pakistan. She also actively participated in SEP’s fundraising initiatives, Dum Spiro lecture series, and the program’s various other aspects. She also worked at the UST Tutorial Services Center as an International Studies and General Writing tutor and served as a Freshman Symposium student mentor. In addition to her studies and UST activities, Haroon had internships with the Writers in Schools’ Creative Writing workshops and the City of Houston Office of Volunteer Initiatives. She served as English as a Second Language tutor through Literacy Advance of Houston and worked with Bhutanese women refugees at Sewa USA International to understand and research refugee resettlement issues.
She credits her work ethic to her parents.
“Despite the many obstacles they faced, their spirits didn’t falter,” Haroon said. “Their only wish continues to be to see my sisters and I obtain a quality education and for us to be honest, humble individuals. On countless occasions, they have sacrificed personal comfort and happiness to ensure my dreams come true. To say that I thank them is a tremendous understatement.”