The impacts of the Iranian plane disaster earlier this month continue to be felt across Canada, particularly among the academic community.
Many of the victims were university students, current or incoming, while others were faculty, staff and alumni of more than 20 different Canadian universities. The Dal community mourned the loss of Engineering student Masoumeh Ghavi, as well as her sister, Mandieh, and Dentistry instructor/alumni, Dr. Sharieh Faghihi. Two Saint Mary’s University students, and three other individuals with ties to Halifax, are also among the victims being remembered.
The Dalhousie Iranian Student Society has played a key role in organizing remembrances and memorials in Halifax, including a capacity crowd vigil at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on January 11. Now, the society is turning its attention to ensuring that the legacy of those who lost their lives can live on through a new bursary fund — one that will support future students from Iran at the university.
A bursary for Iranian students
Dalhousie University is proud to contribute $25,000 to the Iranian Memorial Bursary, which will be awarded to an Iranian student at Dal (undergraduate) who demonstrates financial need, as well as to help ease any complications that arise from studying away from home.
The students are also working to raise an additional $25,000 in donations through the ProjectDal crowdfunding website. (Thus far, nearly $4,000 in additional funds have been raised.)
“A university community supports one another through the best and worst of times. To see our students – and universities across the country – working to turn this tragedy into a positive legacy for future students from Iran is truly inspiring,” says Deep Saini, Dalhousie president. “We are honoured to contribute to their efforts.”
Provost Teri Balser says the students’ fundraising campaign reflects the broader support for the Iranian community she’s seen across campus in the weeks since the disaster.
“Not everyone in the Dal community had the chance to know Masoumeh, Mahdie or Sharieh personally, but everyone feels a sense of loss and, most importantly, compassion for our peers and community members who’ve lost friends, colleagues and family,” says Dr. Balser. “We hope others will join us in supporting the students’ fundraising campaign.”
A student-led effort
The students feel a bursary is a both fitting tribute both to those who lost their lives and also a living reminder of what this loss has meant to their community.
“It could have been any of us,” says Neda Alizadeh, a PhD candidate in the School of Occupational Therapy who is helping organize the fundraising effort with her peers in the Dalhousie Iranian Student Society. “We asked ourselves, ‘What would [those who lost their lives] want us to do?’ And we thought they’d want us to help others with similar goals,” when it comes to pursuing an education.
Neda, who knew Masoumeh personally, says the support from the university has been deeply motivating as she and her peers work to turn this tragedy into a more positive legacy.
“This fundraising can’t compensate for the loss, but it can overcome the darkness that we feel. We are doing something to remember these people. It will help people remember this tragedy forever, while helping people in a similar situation [as students] at the same time.”
To learn more about the Iranian Bursary Fund, and to make a contribution, visit the ProjectDal website.
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