Scholars at Risk

The UCSF Scholars at Risk (SAR) Program promotes academic freedom by funding the professional and educational endeavors of scholars who face threats in their home countries. We facilitate scholars’ move to UCSF and support them by partially or fully funding their endeavors until work conditions improve in their home countries and they can return safely.

We are part of Scholars at Risk, an international network of higher education institutions and individuals working to protect threatened scholars, prevent attacks on higher education, and promote academic freedom.

UCSF established an SAR chapter in 2017 and, to date, we have raised funds to assist scholars from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Tajikistan, and other countries.

Current Opportunities

SAR Scholar Spotlight

On August 15, 2021, Kabul, Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban. For many people, this was a nightmare come true. The Taliban sent death threats to anyone they viewed as a traitor. Jane (not her real name) was the recipient of one of these threats.

Prior to the takeover, Jane worked in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Kabul. In the latter half of 2021, she participated in UCSF’s International Traineeships in AIDS Prevention Studies Scientific Writing Distance Learning Program. During this period, she received a threat on her life from the Taliban because she had previously worked with the Afghan government. Desperate for help, she wrote to a staff member of UCSF:

I am under threat of Taliban as I was appointed by commission of the first Vice President of Afghanistan Amrullah Saleh to the office of the first Vice President. They threaten me by an official letter. I keep the letter. I really need UCSF and other organizations to help me.

Immediately, the UCSF Scholars At Risk team got to work, and Jane was admitted to the UCSF MS in Global Health program.

Because Jane didn’t have a U.S. visa and all flights out of Kabul were cancelled, it was impossible for her to leave. She still had to escape Kabul, so she started a days-long journey to the edge of Afghanistan by bus and crossed the border to Pakistan on foot. Once she arrived in Islamabad, Pakistan, the SAR team helped her find housing until she was able to apply for her visa at the U.S. embassy. Less than two weeks later, her visa was denied under the condition of failure to establish strong ties in her home country. This news left her devastated, as she was stranded and alone in a new country.

Jane forged onwards and reapplied for her U.S. visa. She was granted a visa 20 days later. After all her travel arrangements were made, she finally arrived in San Francisco where members of SAR welcomed her.

Jane’s journey was tedious and grueling, and it could not have been accomplished without her grit and the SAR team’s persistence. Now Jane is a beloved and respected member of the UCSF community, and she hopes to help others in situations like the one she faced.

Support incredible scholars like Jane by donating to the UCSF Scholars at Risk Fund.

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