Berkeley alumna receives top award for educational reforms in
her homeland of India
Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs
-- Efforts to reform education in India and bolster education
for girls were recognized today (Thursday, March 23) with the
presentation of the University of California, Berkeley's Haas
International Award to Urvashi Sahni, a UC Berkeley alumna.
prize is awarded each year to a UC Berkeley graduate achieving
distinction in his or her work who is a native and resident
of a country other than the United States.
is the 31st recipient of the Haas International Award. Colleagues
describe her as charismatic, intelligent, rebellious and committed
to improving education in her Indian homeland.
Haas International Award, which honors Elise and Walter A. Haas,
has been given to the Governor of Taiwan (1995), the Minister
of Japan to the United Nations (1978) and the President of Ecuador
returned to Lucknow, India, after earning her PhD in language
and literacy from UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education
Robert Berdahl presented Sahni with the Haas International Award
during Charter Day ceremonies at the campus's Zellerbach Hall.
Sahni called the award "a great honor" and said UC
Berkeley holds a "great place in my heart and my life."
chancellor also bestowed Dwight Steele, who holds undergraduate
and law degrees from UC Berkeley, with the first Peter E. Haas
Public Service Award. The award, set up to parallel the Haas
International Award, recognizes Steele's work as an advocate
and volunteer in grassroots environmental causes such as protecting
San Francisco Bay, the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe.
Initiating and managing a school reform project involving 62
schools, 16,000 students and 258 teachers in a rural area of
Uttar Pradesh, her home state;
Launching an innovative in-service program for the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF) with 30,000 kindergarten and first-grade
teachers in 28 districts within Uttar Pradesh;
Working as director of an action research project to bolster
girls' education and serving on the state government's Girl
Child Mission to promote girls' education;
Running the "Study Hall" school in Lucknow, a school
dedicated to the child as a person, as well as operating its
affiliated girls' school and subsidized school in a rural area.
UC Berkeley professor Anne Dyson, who served as a mentor to
Sahni along with professor Herbert Simons, said Sahni, is guided
by an "enormous intellect and heart."
of the reasons we took her (at the Graduate School of Education)
is she was very interested in reforming education," said
Simons. Sahni already had founded two schools, an urban institution
for primary children and a rural school for girls before coming
to UC Berkeley.
visited Sahni in India after her graduation. He said he was
impressed by her success boosting education for children in
a poor village by building a classroom at a school where classes
otherwise assemble outdoors. He said Sahni also offers afternoon
classes for teenaged girls in a classroom built behind her own
very charismatic, and she's very good working with teachers,"
Simons said. "They really look up to her and respect her,
and she's very committed to people in the most need of help."
India's fiercely competitive educational system, her school
has earned a reputation for excellence and success, according
who received her BA in political science in 1976 from the University
of Pune in Maharashtra, India, and an MA in philosophy in 1984
from the University of Lucknow, takes a broad view of education
and what it can require in Third World countries. Simons said
she once helped a group of women buy a tractor to use for plowing
to improve family finances and educational opportunities for
the same time Sahni was in Berkeley for the Charter Day ceremony,
Donald McQuade, UC Berkeley vice chancellor for university relations
and professor of English, was in India to discuss the establishment
of a global institute of science and technology. Top U.S. research
universities, including UC Berkeley, will help develop curriculum
for the institute and its campuses across India.
this week, President Clinton met with India's Prime Minister
Atal Behari Vajpayee to sign a vision statement stressing the
importance of a stronger collaboration between their two countries,
emphasizing science and technology education.