As President of Gannon, Dr. Keith Taylor’s vision for the University includes its continued efforts to be more global and its commitment to developing socially responsible, global citizens.

Tabish Shaikh, a 21-year-old visiting student from Pakistan, is helping to make Dr. Taylor’s vision a reality.

During the current Spring Semester, Shaikh is taking classes at Gannon University through the U.S. Department of State’s Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan (Global UGRAD-Pakistan). Global UGRAD-Pakistan is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State and is administered by the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX).

The program is designed to advance youth leadership and promote mutual understanding by providing one academic term of non-degree study to a diverse group of emerging student leaders from underrepresented sectors of Pakistan. Shaikh is the second Pakistani student to spend a semester at Gannon through Global UGRAD-Pakistan.

The process whereby students such as Shaikh are chosen to study in the United States is highly competitive and selective.

Shaikh, who hopes to pursue a career as a chartered financial analyst (CFA), is taking courses in accounting, American literature, mathematics, and marketing. Her semester of study at Gannon also includes a community service requirement.

Shaikh, who is bright, enthusiastic, and engaging, is enjoying immensely her time at Gannon. Even though she had never before been to the United States, she very quickly embraced Gannon and immersed herself in campus life.

On Martin Luther King Day, she joined other Gannon University students who, in spite of snow and winter weather, participated in the City of Erie’s annual march to honor Dr. King’s memory. She also attended a Prayer for Christian Unity at Gannon and attended the guest lecture that the University hosted by children’s author Marc Brown. Shaikh was thrilled to meet Brown and get a signed copy of one of his books.

In addition, she recently gave a presentation on Pakistan to Gannon students and faculty during the International Student Office’s weekly speaker series. During her presentation, Shaikh called Pakistan the “world’s best kept secret” because many westerners know little about it.

Shaikh had jumped at the opportunity to spend a semester at Gannon, in part to experience a new culture and way of life. “I wanted to see a new side of the world,” she said.

Shaikh also was curious whether some of the perceptions Pakistanis have of Americans – that many aren’t friendly or values-oriented – were true. “Americans are very warm,” she said, “especially the professors at Gannon. They are very dedicated and willing to help. They offer encouragement and as a student, you know you can go to them.”

She also is enjoying the opportunity to learn in a different educational model. The American system of higher education tends to offer students more flexibility in terms of course selection. “Students have more freedom to study different disciplines and take courses in the liberal arts,” she said. “At Gannon, the class sizes are small and the professors can offer us more personal attention. I’m very grateful to be here.”

And, Gannon University is grateful for Shaikh’s presence. “Tabish is a joy to be around,” said Christopher Vilevac, associate director of Gannon University’s International Student Office. “As a University, we value our international students because they add to the diversity of the campus and help enrich the lives of all students.”

After her semester at Gannon, Shaikh will resume her studies at Lahore University of Management Sciences, where she is a junior accounting/finance major. A native of Sukkur, Pakistan, Shaikh was raised in Islamabad.

More about Global UGRAD-Pakistan and Gannon University’s Global Visitors Program

The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan program builds the capacity of a diverse group of youth leaders from underserved populations across Pakistan. Through training and practical experience in leadership positions and community engagement in the United States, undergraduate students such as Shaikh gain the skills necessary to implement long-term civic and economic changes in their communities, building stability through cross-cultural understanding.

Through their semester of study in the United States, Global UGRAD-Pakistan students develop a broad and nuanced understanding of American values. Students who participate in the program are expected to share their newly acquired understanding of the United States in their communities at home.

Gannon’s Global Visitors Program, an initiative of the University’s International Student Office (ISO), is designed to bring international students to Gannon for short-term, non-degree study. The program’s objectives include helping participants become more familiar with American culture and higher education.