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Josiane Matar, SVR volunteer interview with
Dr. Gavin Brockett from ISOW 

April 22, 2021

International Students Overcoming War (ISOW) is a student-led and student-funded humanitarian initiative at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. Its purpose is to provide scholarships and education to students who are affected by war, as well as promote active student engagement through the study of the human realities of international conflict today.


Structure and Organization


This initiative is distinguished for its approach since it relies on students to ensure its proper functioning. For instance, ISOW has a student executive team that manages its administrative and executive functions. It also relies on student volunteers to take part in the interviewing process as well as pick and assist the scholarship recipients.

In addition to that, students have the opportunity to contribute to the funding of the scholarships through their own tuition fees. In fact, students at Wilfrid Laurier university have the choice to add a $4 fee every term to their tuition that will be dedicated to fund scholarships for students affected by war. Through this approach, the foundation is able to collect annually about 150,000 Canadian dollars for that scholarship.


ISOW also has a great system of accountability through an advisory council that meets two or three times a year and that's made up of senior administrators that monitor the program and ensure that everything is running smoothly. The organization also highly relies on partner organizations that provide financial assistance and are involved in the recruitment process. Based on my interview with Dr. Gavin Brockett, the ISOW Faculty Advisor, student engagement helps in the success of these programs since student advocates feel more engaged and they are more willing to contribute and assist their fellow counterparts who are benefitting from the program. 


Key Takeaways


  • When student advocates demonstrate a commitment to a particular cause on campus, the university administration is more likely to take action

  • To ensure the success of a scholarship initiative, it is important to understand the local dynamics and immigration system of the country, and to identify the legal and administrative barriers. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and each program should adopt a flexible mindset. 

  • Scholarships and financial assistance are not enough to ensure that students are receiving a proper education and that all their needs are met. Scholarship programs should provide social assistance to the recipients to ensure proper integration in society and in the new academic system. Students affected by conflict tend to have some psychological disorders, psychosocial needs, cultural and family concerns that can’t be solved solely through financial assistance.

  • Scholarship programs should not only focus on ensuring funding, but also focus on ensuring that students are getting the best out of their experience. The program should help with facilitating integration in the local culture, in the case that students are unable to return back home after they finish their education.

  • It is important to have a supportive network in both the private and public sector (eg: formal partnerships, consultants). These programs can’t run on their own and it is necessary to have external partners that are willing to provide financial, legal, and administrative support when needed. 

  • There will always be conflict and problems with these programs. Thus, it is important to focus on the main objective and keep an eye on the final outcome that would be worth overcoming all the problems for.

Meet SVR Volunteer, Josiane Matar 

Josiane Matar, SVR Volunteer, Working group 1 

Josiane Matar is a Lebanese- Cypriot recent graduate from Sciences Po - Paris. She has pursued her Master’s degree in International Public Management with emphasis on diplomacy and human rights. Josiane has a huge fascination with migration and refugee studies. She wrote her master’s thesis on the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and published several articles on the matter. She has also volunteered and conducted field research in several refugee camps across Lebanon. After graduating from Sciences Po, Josiane worked as a consultant for the research division at the UN International Organization for Migration assisting in the drafting of the upcoming World Migration Report

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