Inspiring voices

Roxanna AzariRoxanna Azari ’10 graduated from Wheaton with a far-reaching mission and the resources to pursue it around the globe.

A double major in women’s studies and English with a concentration in creative writing, Azari won a Watson Fellowship to study the religious, political and personal meanings ascribed to the veils worn by women in many Islamic countries. This year, she plans to visit France, Morocco, Turkey, India and the United Arab Emirates, to uncover the stories of women behind the veil and reveal the diversity of opinions, beliefs and personal stories behind the clothing.

Currently in India, Azari appears to be striking a chord with people near the city of Mumbai, where she organized a poetry writing workshop and performance with a group of young women. The Mumbai Mirror described the scene this way:

While the loud Azaan from the nearby mosque silenced the crowd of 50 women and few men inside the tiny hall in Kurla, the enthusiasm of the performing poetesses hung thick in the air. After all, it was the evening of Bazm-e-Sukhan, wherein 12 young otherwise-shy Muslim girls from Mumbra were standing before an encouraging audience of family, friends and well-wishers, as they performed their own poetry in various formats. The inspiration behind this activity, Iranian-American Spoken Word poet Roxanna Azari, stood cheering each of her students-turned-friends.

Azari is the latest Wheaton student to win a Watson Fellowship. The  Thomas J. Watson Foundation presents the awards to college seniors of unusual promise for a year of independent exploration and travel outside the United States. Nearly 1,000 students from up to 40 selective private liberal arts colleges and universities apply for these awards each year.