William & Mary senior Zoha Siddiqui was one of just 12 university students nationwide to be selected as a member of the George J. Mitchell Scholarship Class of 2024, the U.S.-Ireland Alliance announced recently.
According to a press release, Siddiqui is the first William & Mary student to ever be selected for the prestigious scholarship, which sends American leaders to Ireland for a year of graduate study. A total of 306 individuals applied for the 12 scholarships this year.
“I am honored to have been selected as a George J. Mitchell Scholar,” said Siddiqui. “I am most honored to be part of such an impressive and supportive community of fellow Mitchell Scholars and alumni, several of whom I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting, and all of whom I’m eager to learn from and work with to strengthen the U.S.-Ireland relationship.”
A resident of McLean, Virginia, Siddiqui is studying international relations and transitional justice, the process by which states redress mass violence. As a Mitchell Scholar, she will complete a Master’s in Conflict Transformation & Social Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. She hopes to one day become an international lawyer, working to advance victims’ rights.
“This program fits all my academic and professional goals: to continue learning about transitional justice from leading academics, to apply my theoretical insights from the classroom to hands-on policy work via internships, and to live in a place that is actively dealing with the legacy of violent conflict,” she said. “I’m most looking forward to being based in Belfast, and to all the learning experiences I will have outside the classroom.”
According to the press release, she became interested in the 1947 partition between India and Pakistan and how witnesses to partition, including her own grandparents and great grandparents, dealt with the grief, trauma and tumult of that time.
Her international community involvement includes co-directing the Exodus Project, where her efforts resulted in policy recommendations presented to USAID and other organizations to improve the quality of life for Venezuelan migrant communities in Colombia. She is also the co-founder and co-director of the non-profit organization HER, which has created 13 libraries for over 20,000 students attending underfunded girls’ schools in rural and urban areas of Pakistan and Morocco.
She has co-authored numerous articles on the role of international justice institutions in the ongoing war in Ukraine, advocated for education rights for prisoners in Argentina and has analyzed and indexed evidence in legal cases on enforced disappearances during Guatemala’s Internal Armed Conflict.
Siddiqui credits several aspects of her time at W&M with helping to prepare her for this opportunity. She said that being able to design her own major in transitional justice at William & Mary gave her the flexibility to pursue courses she was passionate about and to form relationships with a wide variety of faculty across disciplines.
She also cites the 1693 Scholars Program as one of the most defining parts of her time at the university, because of the community of peers, alumni, and mentors that she was able to learn from.
“I am also incredibly grateful to my professors and advisors at William & Mary, who trusted me as an undergraduate to publish alongside them, travel with them to post-conflict states and do hands-on transitional justice work with them, like analyzing declassified government documents for evidence of human rights abuses,” she said.
The study abroad programs she was able to participate in, including one in which she studied and interned at the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria in La Plata, Argentina, were also crucial to her understanding of transitional justice, she said.
“Because of my experiences abroad and as a Stamps 1693 Scholar, I felt motivated to apply to the Mitchell Scholarship and move to Belfast for a year.”
Current W&M students and recent alumni interested in applying for a Mitchell Scholarship should contact the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.
Erin Jay, Senior Associate Director of University News