A student describes how financial impediments for college were overcome with a Scholarship Program.

Since childhood, Riaz Jiwani was interested in understanding how things worked. During high school, he discovered how to channel his energy, and think about which university could help him further hone his passion. In the back of his mind, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance around meritocracy and being ahead of the game helped him understand that he would be competing with other bright individuals, and would have to differentiate himself.

Riaz nailed his interest down to the Civil Engineering program at the University of Berkeley, California, and with a strong academic and extracurricular record, he was able to get in. However, the next phase was thinking about how to pay for college.

“My older sister was also in college at the time, and my family was not in a position to fund an out-of-state education for me,” said Riaz, whose family is based out of Dallas, Texas. “Making the decision to attend a university outside my home state, I knew that the cost of attendance was going to be higher, and I needed support to make sure I made it to my dream school.”

Thanks to a mentor from Jamatkhana, Riaz learned about the Aga Khan Education Board’s Education and Financial Aid Scholarship program (EFAS). The merit and need-based, 50% grant, 50% loan based program gives eligible candidates the financial boost to make it to their college of choice. “The entire application process gave me an opportunity to reflect on my extra-curricular activities, high school experience, and my purpose for pursuing an education in civil engineering,” Riaz explained. “It required me to think about my purpose for pursuing a specific career path. It also led me to think of the countless other students applying for the same award, who were extremely bright and qualified.”

Riaz talked about working with an EFAS panel member, who served as his advocate throughout the application process. “They were very personable and genuine. I put my best foot forward, and they helped me continue my journey.”

Riaz successfully completed his Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and further went on to gain a Master of Science in Geotechnical Engineering from UC Berkeley. Since then, he has spent time working as a general contractor, engineering consultant, and field engineer, which has allowed him to work on notable projects throughout California, Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia. Riaz specializes in foundation engineering and construction, and now works in project management for the world’s largest geotechnical specialty contractor, Keller Foundations, based in Houston. He also decided to pay his experience forward, and currently serves as a panel member for EFAS.

“It’s come full circle for me, now that I’ve seen the program from both perspectives,” Riaz reflected. “One of the things I’ve learned over the past few years as a panel member is that the US Jamat has some of the most brilliant students in the world, and that someone’s financial status is not indicative of how intelligent or successful they will be. EFAS is a vehicle that helps award recipients focused on being their best and obtaining the best education possible.”

The EFAS scholarship is currently open for undergraduate applicants in the US. Visit theismailiusa.org for more information and to apply. The application deadline is March 21, 2020.

Graduate students also have access to the Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship Program (ISP). To learn more about the graduate scholarship program, email [email protected]. Applications close on March 31, 2020.