MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Naina Qayyum, a senior from Islamabad, Pakistan, has been awarded a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant from the Davis United World Scholars Program. Qayyum, an economics major with a minor in global health, will conduct her project this summer in Pakistan.

Qayyum, who has been very active in creativity and innovation projects at Middlebury, will run a two-week program called “Creative Youth for Community Leadership Enhancement” in Islamabad. The program will draw on the ideas of design thinking—a process of developing creative and innovative solutions to problems—to help Pakistani youth develop leadership skills and design creative solutions to challenges facing their communities. The program builds on a smaller pilot project she completed in rural Chitral, Pakistan in the summer of 2014.

“This is another big milestone for me in learning about how design thinking will work in a Pakistani community,” said Qayyum. “I look at it as a tool that can empower local people to actually think about problems as challenges and to tackle them with their own creativity that they may not have used for a long time.”

Qayyum, a Davis UWC Scholar, says that in the future she wants to establish a network of design thinkers in Pakistan in which groups of youth throughout the country will be ambassadors of design thinking in their communities. She wants to focus on remote rural communities that have been underserved by government and may be considered too small for the aid of non-governmental organizations. “They would be identifying problems and collaborating with other units in the country to ask, ‘How can we make a better solution to this problem?’”

A total of 127 winning projects at participant colleges have been selected and are being awarded $10,000 each for implementation during the summer of 2015. In 2007, Projects for Peace was the vision of philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis on the occasion of her 100th birthday. Until her death at 106 in 2013, Mrs. Davis was intent on advancing the cause of peace and sought to motivate tomorrow’s promising leaders by challenging them to find ways to “prepare for peace.”

Projects for Peace invites all undergraduates at the 91 American colleges and universities that are partners in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to compete for these grants. Other participating institutions include International Houses Worldwide, the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Future Generations Graduate School, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and the University of Maine.

“Competition is keen and we congratulate those students whose projects have been selected for funding in 2015,” said Philip O. Geier, Executive Director of the Davis United World College Scholars Program that administers Projects for Peace. “We are pleased to once again help young people launch some initiatives that will bring new energy and ideas to improving the prospects for peace in the world.”

With reporting by Stephen Diehl; photo by Robert Keren