Sister2Sister Program & CU Denver: Unique Opportunity for Pakistani Students
STEM Studies at Business School
“I’ve always been a STEM* studies kid, and focused on business and management consulting in school,” explained Momina Malik. “I discovered that crunching numbers really interests me.” A first-year college student in Pakistan, Malik is majoring in accounting. (*Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
“I now understand how the world is connected,” said Zainab Mukhtar. “It’s important to be aware of the world views of people coming from other countries, of their societies and their regions’ economics.” With a keen interest in the health sciences, Mukhtar is earning a bachelor’s degree in nutrition.
As outstanding students, Malik and Mukhtar applied for and were accepted into the Sister2Sister (S2S) Exchange Program, which is funded by the United States Department of State and administered by a consortium of partners, including American University, iEARN-USA and Society for International Education. The program offers fully-funded opportunities for female students from Pakistan to attend undergraduate summer courses at prestigious U.S. universities, including the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus. Students are able to study and explore career pathways in medicine, international affairs, business and entrepreneurship, gender studies, pharmacy, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) subjects.
“It is an honor to have these two remarkable students with us this summer,” said Shane Hoon, Assistant Dean of Student Success at the Business School, University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus. “Participation in the Sister2Sister program broadens what CU Denver can contribute on a global scale. We’re seeing more overlays between business and health sciences, exemplified by programs between CU Denver and CU Anschutz, and by collaborations in society and throughout many professional fields.”
Through the S2S partnership program, students gain knowledge that empowers them to help not only themselves but also others throughout communities. As an example, Hoon explained how sound business acumen is critical to meet the growing need for effective development and management of hospitals and clinics. “CU Denver’s Business School is a pioneer in these programs.”
Due to the global pandemic and related travel restrictions, the summer 2021 S2S program partnership with CU Denver piloted in a virtual-only format. Malik and Mukhtar attended classes taught by Merrily (“Missy”) Kautt, Senior Instructor in International Business. They also gave an evening presentation to the International Business Student Network (IBSN) group.
During this informative presentation, several dozen participants enjoyed learning more about Pakistan, a country that is home to one of the world’s earliest civilization, the Indus Valley Civilization.
Urdu is the national language; between 73-76 languages are also spoken throughout the country. English is taught in schools, starting in kindergarten and through high school. “Their English is better than ours because they learn both British and American English language,” Kautt commented with a smile.
Malik and Mukhtar presented details about Pakistan’s favorite sporting events – cricket is the most popular, followed closely by field hockey. The national hockey team has won multiple world hockey championships, as well as several gold medals in the Olympics. “I love to see how sports bring unity between countries,” commented Malik. Both Malik and Mukhtar enjoy playing basketball.
IBSN meeting participants learned that Colorado, USA, and Pakistan share something in common – both areas have beautiful natural landscapes that offer snow skiing, hiking, and white-water rafting adventures for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Colorado has the scenic Rocky Mountain Range; Pakistan has the beautiful Himalayan and Karokoram Mountain Ranges. Pakistan’s Mount K-2 is the second highest peak on the planet, it poses a monumental challenge that draws serious climbers from around the world.
Malik and Mukhtar agreed that Pakistan has a “strong entrepreneurial spirit” and leaders that they respect. As examples, Malik holds Malala Yousafzai and Nergis Mavalvala in high regard. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani education activist, is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Through the activities of her Malala Fund, she champions educational rights and opportunities for women in diverse global regions. Nergis Mavalvala is a Pakistani-American astrophysicist and professor at MIT; she is best known for her work on the detection of gravitational waves in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project.
Mukhtar said that she most admires “my own sisters, because of their individual journeys.” She further explained, “They represent Pakistan well in sports. They also encouraged me to apply for the Sister2Sister program.”
Manuel Serapio, Business School Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for International Business, who attended the presentation, observed that the strongest cultural trait of a country can often be summed up with a word or two.
“As an example, ‘sensitivity’ is used frequently to describe a cultural attribute of Thailand’s society; ‘individual freedom’ could describe Americans,” said Serapio. He asked the two student presenters, “What is a good descriptor for Pakistan?”
“’Diversity’,” answered Malik. Mukhtar agreed, “In Pakistan, communities are open to celebrating different cultures as well as many holidays from different cultural groups.”
Malik and Mukhtar spoke more about this generous, open attitude as it applied to other aspects of community life in Pakistan. “Women in Pakistan are not oppressed as the media often portrays,” said Mukhtar. “I feel safe and secure here.”
Malik added, “And there is a women’s march every year, which is joined by thousands of people.”
Both students expressed appreciation for their home country of Pakistan, for their educational opportunities, and a special appreciation for the unique opportunity to elevate their education through the Sister2Sister program and CU Denver.
“The Sister2Sister program has opened my perspective – I’m now meeting students from many different countries,” said Malik. “The course acts as a lens to the world.”
“The Business School is thrilled to participate in the Sister to Sister program, which contributes toward our vision of building a stronger Denver and a better world,” said Scott Dawson, MBA, PhD, Dean, Business School. “Being able to participate in the educational experience of Momina and Zainab is a privilege, and they’re enriching the experience for many other students in their classes.”
The Office of International Affairs (OIA) works closely with internal university leadership, faculty, and schools/colleges such as the Business School to develop programs and partnerships that bring international students into degree programs at CU Denver and CU Anschutz and visiting international scholars to campus. Through collaborations( with a variety of external organizations, OIA and the university additionally develop beyond-the-classroom learning opportunities that enhance the academic and professional achievements of international students.