Three Undergraduates Honored With Coro Fellowships

UC Riverside’s Aaron Johnson, Sean Fahmian and Keyva Clark will be trained to develop civic leadership skills, experience and confidence; solve tough community problems; network with leaders

Aaron Johnson (left) and Sean Fahmian.Photo credit: Mojgan Sherkat, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Undergraduates at the University of California, Riverside have already achieved a series of victories in competitive awards this year:  Two Goldwater Scholarships, three Strauss Fellowships and twelve Gilman Scholarships.  Now three Coro Fellowships add to their impressive total.

“Four years ago we launched a program in the Office of Undergraduate Education aimed at mentoring students who want to pursue prestigious scholarships and fellowships,” said Steven Brint, the vice provost for undergraduate education at UC Riverside.  “Our team spends time with our student candidates, getting to know them and their professional goals, and giving them advice that will help them to be competitive.  But, most important, UCR has a large pool of talented students—as good as any you can find anywhere in the country.  Some awards like the Coro and the Strauss are oriented to public service, and it helps for those awards that so many of our students are committed to giving back to their communities.”

Keyva Clark.

Keyva Clark.

Aaron Johnson, Sean Fahmian and Keyva Clark are the recipients of the nine-month Coro Fellowships.  Coro trains ethical, diverse civic leaders nationwide, with the fellowship providing a living stipend based on financial need.  Throughout the nine months, each fellow participates in a series of full-time projects across a variety of sectors in public affairs – such as government, business, electoral politics, organized labor, media, and non-profit/philanthropy – and a final independent project.

This is the fourth year in a row that UCR will be represented in the Coro Fellowship Program.  More than 10,000 Coro alumni currently serve as leaders in local, regional and national/global businesses, non-profit organizations, governmental agencies and elected public office.  Coro programs take place in the context of a specific community, such as a city, geographic region or neighborhood.

“This year’s recipients exemplify the attributes of a Coro Fellow; they have a commitment to service, the leadership skills to make change happen as demonstrated by the impactful changes they have made in leadership roles on campus,” said Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz, the director of student success programs in the Office of Undergraduate Education. “Most important, these students genuinely care about making positive changes for the benefit of others.”

Johnson graduates this weekend (Commencement 2015) with a bachelor’s degree in political science, emphasis in international affairs. Since discovering his passion for politics in high school, he considers himself to be a politics enthusiast.

“I enjoy following our nation’s competitive elections and staying informed about both domestic and international events by consistently reading and watching the news,” he said.

As an undergraduate, he served the student body for two terms: first, as a CHASS Senator from 2013-2013, and, second, as president pro tempore from 2013-2014.  In the latter position, he led the student senate to pass more legislation than any other prior elected group.  In summer 2014, he served as a mentor for UCR’s EAOP Senior Summer Mentorship Program, which helps the Inland Empire’s best high school students prepare for the college application process.

He applied for a Coro Fellowship because it promised an “extraordinary introduction to the public policy field.”

“The Coro Fellows Program monumentally impacts my life plan,” Johnson said.  “It will expand upon the inroads I have already made, while allowing me to discover which field I am best suited for.  Further, camaraderie built with my co-fellows will challenge and widen my perspective and beliefs.  After the Coro Fellowship, I plan to obtain an entry-level position in the communications or public sector.  In the long-term future, I aspire to hold an elected office at either the state or federal level.”

Johnson will work in Los Angeles for the duration of the fellowship.

Fahmian graduates this weekend with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.  He has worked as an ASUCR Senator for the Bourns College of Engineering, where he received the Michael T. Sullivan Outstanding Student Representative Award.  He is currently working as a research assistant in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, working as the chair of the Highlander Union Board of Governors, and as the vice chair of the Student Services Fee Advisory Committee.   He is keenly interested in learning from Coro the connection between engineering and the local and state government and the effects that engineering will have on the local/state communities.

“Engineers will be working closely with politicians in the near future to tackle problems such as water and energy production, and I hope to be there when they do,” Fahmian said.

His career goal is to work in the chemical engineering industry, being interested in energy and water, and future forms of their production.  Fahmian applied for the Coro Fellowship because he felt it would be a “great opportunity to learn how the city and state government works cohesively with local communities and businesses.”  He, too, will work in Los Angeles for the duration of the fellowship.

“The fellowship will provide me with a broad understanding of different sectors of Los Angeles and allow me to further my career goals with what I learn,” he said. “This fellowship is right for me because with the growing issue of energy and water, there will need to be engineers with knowledge of public affairs that will understand how to work with city leaders in order to efficiently and effectively implement working systems for the community. Engineers offer a unique perspective and way of thinking on various issues, and I believe that with my past experience I will be able to further develop and hone my leadership qualities.”

Clark graduates this weekend with a bachelor’s degree in political science, emphasis in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies (a research paper she worked on recently focused on women in the Gulf region of the Middle East, specifically on their social, political and economic mobility). She is a transfer student who came to UCR in 2013 to immerse herself in the community.

Her participation in the UCDC Program in her first spring gave her leadership skills that helped her recruit other students to the program. She serves as an Advancement Ambassador, Student Alumni Association Executive Board Member, and an African Student Program Mentor.  She plans to attend law school and tackle a dual degree program to acquire her Juris Doctor degree and Ph.D. in political science. Her goal is to not only practice law but enter academia where she intends to bring innovative ideas to the classroom.

“I would like to practice law for a few years and then take my experience and apply it in academia as a professor at a university,” she said.  “After Coro I plan to go on to professional school where I plan to expand myself and use the new experiences Coro gives me to make all my goals and dreams come true.”

Clark believes the Coro Scholarship is right for her professional goals of bringing unconventional styles and ideas to her future job.

“I do not want to be the kind of professor who studied for years only to teach what she learned,” she said.  “I would like to use my experience and knowledge to help students become more conscious about how their educational knowledge will, and can be, used in a present day setting.”

Clark will work in Pittsburgh, Penn., for the duration of the fellowship.

Coro began in San Francisco in 1942 to train young veterans in the leadership skills necessary to assure that a democratic system of government could more effectively meet the needs of its citizens.  More about Coro here.

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