SIA Students get a glimpse of their future through the eyes of an alum

SIA graduate and program implementation coordinator for the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, Fawad Sultani
SIA graduate and program implementation coordinator for the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, Fawad Sultani Credit: Mary Szmolko

Students at the Penn State School of International Affairs realized what type of impact they could make on the world when they heard SIA graduate Fawad Sultani ’14 speak on Wednesday.

Sultani, program implementation coordinator with the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), led a discussion on state building and Afghan Contemporary Politics as part of Professor Dennis Jett’s Spring Colloquium on Current Policy Challenges (INTAF 590). Sultani's visit was co-sponsored by SIA and the Center for Global Studies.

Sultani gave an extensive overview of how his organization helps to teach and empower the Afghan people to help themselves and continue the development of their own country. As an Afghan citizen, his passion for his work shows through his words and experience.

“When I was growing up in Afghanistan, I saw people and soldiers from other countries help my country,” he said. “And I thought. if they are willing to put their lives on the line for my country, then I should be able to do something, too.”

Sultani explained how the goals of the SCA include community empowerment and development interventions from a rights-based approach, which in turn leads to state building and nation building. His work focuses on implementing programs in the country to support education, health, Rehabilitation of Persons with Disability, and rural development.

He started working for the SCA while he was in high school and worked while in college to ascend through the organization, until he needed more education. Sultani received a Fulbright scholarship, which allowed him to come to SIA, his first time in the United States.

“I was lucky that I ended up here, because the knowledge I got here was the key to my success,” he said. “SIA taught me to think out of the box, because dealing in international affairs does not have a formula. There are the basics, but to work and make an impact on the real world with human elements, I learned to do this here.”

Sultani also credits SIA with teaching him how to do research and analysis, which he now uses to support his ideas and arguments in fact. However, in addition to classroom learning, he said meeting the international student community at SIA gave him perspective.

“The students from different cultures here at the school, I had to work with them, and these are real people with real differing viewpoints,” he said. “But because of them, I never felt alone because I felt that we were a family.”

Jett organizes the semester-long colloquium to bring thought leaders to campus on topics ranging from food security to terrorism. The program features 14 speakers and the topics vary depending on the current issues of the day.

Click here to watch and listen to Fawad Sultani's presentation