University | News
AUW Graduates Earn Fulbright Fellowship, Ph.D. placements, and more
Chittagong, Bangladesh
28, Jun, 2017

Since graduating its first class in 2013, AUW has graduated five classes totaling more than 525 students. To date, more than 25% of AUW alumnae have enrolled in graduate schools throughout the world, including Columbia University, the University of Oxford, and Stanford University. We are pleased to spotlight a few outstanding AUW alumnae who are pursuing graduate studies abroad.

Masooma Maqsoodi | Afghanistan | Class of 2015

The Taliban forced Masooma and her family to flee Afghanistan and seek refuge in bordering Iran. When the Iranian government stopped providing education to Afghan refugees, Masooma worked as a carpenter’s assistant to earn money for English and computer classes.

After a brief return to Afghanistan, Masooma applied to Asian University for Women. As an AUW student, Masooma participated in the Women in Public Service Institute and developed a U.S. Department of State-sponsored project to study attitudes towards street harassment in Afghanistan. As an AUW alumna, Masooma worked for the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO) and was a regular contributer to a Farsi/Dari newspaper on topics related to the challenges that Afghan women face. In 2014, Masooma was published in the New Statesman for an article entitled My Journey to Freedom. 

In 2016, Masooma received a Fulbright Fellowship from the U.S. Department of State to pursue graduate studies in the United States. In August 2017, Masooma will begin coursework toward a Master’s of International Development Policy (MIDP) at the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy.

“As a Politics, Philosophy and Economics major at AUW, I took a variety of courses that strengthened my critical thinking and communication skills, and helped me find my passion in Development Studies. My education at AUW expanded my worldview, raised my self-confidence, and encouraged me to dream big and take bold actions to build a better world for myself and my community. After getting my Master’s degree from Duke University, I would like to return to Afghanistan and improve public services for the poor.” – Masooma

Saren Keang | Cambodia | Class of 2014

Saren’s mother left school after the third grade to work in a grocery store. Her father left school after the sixth grade because the Cambodian Civil War and genocide began.

Saren’s father supported the family by making sugar from palm-tree fruits. After he became ill, Saren’s mother sold meat, vegetables, and cooking oil to support the family. Saren’s eldest sister was forced to drop out of school after fourth grade to support the family full time. Fearing a similar fate, Saren worked harder in school and eventually earned a full scholarship to study at AUW.

Now Saren is pursuing a dual Master’s degree in Sustainable International Development and Coexistence and Conflict at Brandeis University with full scholarship support from Open Society Foundations.

“At AUW, I learned to believe that my opinions matter and that I can do anything. In the future, I want to be Director of UN Women. I am passionate about women’s issues and girls’ education, and I want to promote women’s education and empowerment globally. If girls are supported, they are unstoppable.”

Nikita Naik | India | Class of 2017

In Autumn of 2017, Nikita will begin coursework toward a Master of Science degree in Genetic Manipulation and Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Sussex. This is part of a formal partnership between AUW and the University of Sussex to promote cooperation in teaching and research, staff and student exchanges, and opportunities for AUW students to receive scholarships for graduate study at Sussex.

University of Sussex Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Tickell said, “We are delighted to enter this unique partnership with Asian University for Women, an institution which is educating the next generation of female leaders in Asia. Providing an even playing field, and ensuring as wide as possible access to education, is something we care about passionately here at the University of Sussex and we are pleased to be building on this partnership through innovative collaboration. We look forward to working with our colleagues at Asian University for Women and welcoming their students and staff to our campus in the future.”

Nishat Mowla | Bangladesh | Class of 2013

After graduation, Nishat enrolled in the Engineering College of Ewha Womans University in South Korea to pursue a fully-funded Ph.D. in Computer Science. In 2016, Nishat won the Best Master’s Thesis Award for her research on multi-defense mechanisms against cyber-attacks.

For Nishat, there is a clear connection between STEM and women’s empowerment. STEM knowledge holds great promise for economic and social advancement, especially for women in developing countries. Basic technological skills are necessary for most modern professions, and women need elementary computer literacy to compete in today’s job market. STEM careers also position women to shape the future of society, as daily advancements in STEM address major global issues, such as food insecurity, climate change, illnesses, and infectious disease. Nishat believes that women have a powerful role to play in these world-changing developments.

Nishat’s doctoral research will focus on improving network security, which is important for protecting everything from an individual’s credit card information to a country’s nuclear missile codes.  “Everyday there are new technological developments that improve people’s lives, but they also raise many new security risks,” says Nishat. She underscores her point by alluding to a string of cyber-heists in Bangladesh – one such event involving hackers who stole large sums of money by implanting keystroke chips into local ATMs. “To protect against these attacks, we need more research and network security tools,” says Nishat, who seeks to create new and improved network defense mechanisms throughout her academic career.

Abhisha Dessai | India | Class of 2016

Abhisha is pursuing a fully-funded Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her doctoral research will focus on cancer epigenetics and cures for cancer that are accessible to low-income individuals.

“I feel privileged to be part of the AUW community. Liberal thinking is embedded in every aspect of our coursework and campus life, and this has helped me to become a more thoughtful and courageous person. AUW has taught me that every dream is achievable – even a cure for cancer – if we work hard and work together.” – Abhisha



Mursal Hamraz | Afghanistan | Class of 2014

After graduation, Mursal worked in the Government of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics, where she previously interned. She evaluated the efficacy of women’s vocational training and treatment at drug addiction rehabilitation centers. She also created a media campaign to promote awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Now Mursal works in the Office of the First Lady of Afghanistan — a dream job which allows her to generate positive change for Afghan women. She recently won the prestigious Chevening Scholarship to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom. In Autumn 2017, Mursal will begin coursework toward a Master’s of Development Economics at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

Kamala KC | Nepal | Class of 2013

Kamala KC (Nepal, Class of 2013) is currently pursuing a Master’s of NGO Studies from SungGongHoe University (Korean Episcopalian University) with support from SUN Foundation, the pro bono arm of One Law firm in South Korea. In June 2017, Kamala was awarded the SUN Foundation Scholarship for International Human Rights to continue her research on the economic and social effects of remittances sent to Nepal by Nepalese migrant workers in Korea. Since 2014, Kamala has also been examining the situation of Nepalese migrant workers who eventually return to Nepal, and she has identified ways to help these workers organize social enterprises.

In the future Kamala aims to use the international human rights expertise that she has developed in South Korea to establish an educational institution for children in Nepal and to develop an investment platform for returning Nepalese migrants. Kamala expresses deep gratitude to SUN Foundation for supporting her graduate studies in South Korea.