Sidra Khan is an MPACS student from Pakistan with a passion for grassroots movements and community-building. Now in her third semester, she is strongly driven to connect with people – a quality that ties directly into the MPACS program.
Sidra completed her undergraduate studies in social sciences with a major in advertising and went on to work as a journalist before choosing the MPACS program. She chose the MPACS program due to its robust courses, rich discussions, diverse community, and balanced mix of professional and academic elements.
Even before graduating, I landed a job at a leading news channel in the country. Because initially I planned to be a journalist, but there was a lot of hard news that was very traumatic. I learned a lot, but it was not good for my emotional health.
Looking to advance her impact in other areas, she started working with the US consulate in Karachi, where she ended up designing, implementing, and evaluating peacebuilding programs for young people and also got to know the development sector in Pakistan. Looking back, Sidra says that
That job opened up my horizons. I realized there is so much more I can do to create an impact
A big motivation to join the MPACS program came when Sidra was selected for a National Peace Fellowship in Pakistan. Part of a group of 30 peacebuilders, she was able to go on a 7-day tech-free retreat and meet people working in different niches, prompting her to think about all the different work that needed to be done.
Before that, my understanding of peacebuilding was limited, but soon I realized wherever you are there is a need for peacebuilding. One needs to find that calling and start working. You will end up finding all the help and resources you need along the way.
Entering the MPACS program, Sidra had to adapt to new styles of academic engagement. However, one thing she notes about the program is the diverse range of peers from different countries and professions, leading to rich conversations.
There are lots of different international students of all professions, who all have worked in their own country in different capacities. It is interesting to dissect cases of how something happening back home for one person is also happening in other places in the world. That is how we bridge gaps in the peacebuilding world and learn from each other.
Outside of classes, Sidra is involved in several organizations. She is the Council Chair for the Graduate Student Association, where she serves as a bridge between the University and graduate students, highlighting issues and solutions to improve the graduate student experience at the University of Waterloo.
It is a very good way to learn how public opinion matters and how we can keep it at the center of designing solutions. I was so excited because I would be directly involved in creating an impact.
In the student community, Sidra is in touch with many international students and says she always enjoys learning about the challenges they face, as well as figuring out how to help them.
Sidra is also a part of Organize UW, a student unionization drive on campus. This also echoes her interest in a people-centered approach to community building. Sidra says that her sense of self comes from helping students and doing things that positively impact them. Seeing change happen is a huge part of what she enjoys and links back to her interest in peacebuilding and community-building.
What happens next for Sidra is still to be determined, but she knows she wants to continue working in the communities around her. She talks about wanting to initiate programs and has already started planning what that could look like. Wherever she goes, she remains driven to inspire positive change.