Class of 2018: Graduating senior Saherah Khan seeks to create the change she wishes to see in the world
Saherah Khan, of Clifton, Virginia, a student in the Pamplin College of Business, will graduate this month and take a formative step toward achieving her long-term goal of developing policy that provides equal educational opportunities for all children.
Through the nonprofit Teach for America program, Khan has made a two-year commitment to teaching in low-income Washington, D.C., schools.
“I want to experience the injustices occurring in classrooms firsthand, before I move on to tackling how best to improve educational policies affecting children living in poverty and homelessness,” Khan said.
Khan is a business management major, with a concentration in consulting and analysis, and a recipient of the Pamplin New Horizons Scholarship, established in 2013 to recruit more students with a diverse background to Pamplin and to promote a better understanding about the importance of diversity in higher education and in the workplace.
Khan will also receive a degree in public and urban affairs, with a concentration in public policy, from the School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.
“Management consulting is applicable to any business, including strategies for nonprofit work,” said Khan. “I feel that with these two degrees I am getting the best of both worlds for what I want to do. Also, I truly believe that it is a real benefit to be able to approach challenges with knowledge that extends beyond one area.”
Her motivation for choosing a career path dedicated to equal education — and her commitment to social justice in general — comes from her personal story, Khan said. While living in a rural Pakistani village for two years between middle and high school, she was forbidden to attend school.
“Conditions there, especially for girls and women, were dehumanizing and made me realize how important an education is to self-worth,” Khan said.
Returning to Northern Virginia, she attended Centreville High School, where she learned about the Pamplin New Horizons Scholarship during her senior year.
“I am grateful for this $20,000 scholarship, as it was instrumental in me being able to attend college, enabling me to pursue my dreams,” said Khan.
Khan’s internships and other extracurricular activities are diverse but all within her interests of public policy, government, nonprofit management, poverty, and welfare policy.
She was a community engagement intern at the Katherine Hanley Family Shelter in Fairfax, Virginia; a policy and research intern at Peacework in Blacksburg; and a Congressional intern for Sen. Mark Warner in Roanoke. Her responsibilities ranged from advocating for the well-being of shelter families and placing children and teens in appropriate summer programs to researching and writing white papers to answering legislative and casework-related phone calls from constituents throughout Virginia.
Currently, Khan serves as a special advocate at Court Appointed Special Advocates in Christiansburg. Since fall 2017, she has represented Virginia Tech on the student advisory committee for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
As a fellow in the Young Democrats of America College Leadership Academy, Khan spent a full day lobbying on Capitol Hill around issues that currently affect college students, including the American Health Care Act of 2017 and Student Loan Repayment Assistance Act of 2017.
From May 2016 to August 2017, she served as a campus ambassador for the Peace Corps, creating innovative campus programs and engaging in student outreach that included class talks, social media efforts, and campus events.
Last year, Khan founded Humans Against Social Injustice, a nonprofit organization that partners with local organizations to address a wide range of social issues, including homelessness and education.
Khan hopes to pursue a graduate degree in education and social policy and to work for the U.S. Department of Education, where she can help facilitate change.
“My life has taken a few detours,” said Khan. “But I believe the obstacles I overcame in Pakistan, the experiences I have gained while a student, and what I will learn while working for Teach for America are all going to help me create the change I wish to see in this world.”
Written by Barbara Micale