UCI Celebrates the First Prestigious Scholarship Recipient of the New Year!

The Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and the Division of Undergraduate Education are excited to announce the first prestigious scholarship recipient for this year! Malak Kudaimi, UCI alumna and staff member, has been named a Marshall Scholar for 2021-22.

Kudaimi is the third UCI student to receive the award, following Kelly Maglia in 1996 and Felipe Hernandez in 2015. Additionally, as a full-time staff member at the Fresh Basic Needs Hub, she is the first UCI staff member to receive the Marshall Scholarship.

About the Marshall Scholarship

The Marshall Scholarship is one of the most prestigious and competitive scholarships in the world. While students all over the country apply annually, only 50 outstanding students are selected to study at the graduate level at an institution in the United Kingdom. Marshall Scholars are chosen based on their academic merit, leadership potential, and ambassadorial potential. 

As a recipient of the Marshall Scholarship, Kudaimi will continue to pursue her passion for global health, nutrition policy, and chronic disease prevention through the Master of Science in Health and International Development program at the London School of Economics (LSE). With a focus on international policy and humanitarian concerns, Kudaimi’s research will inform her advocacy for evidence-based policy in the Middle East region as a future public health professional.

About Malak Kudaimi

“Growing up, my parents often challenged me to embody servant leadership and to remember the principle of accountability in our faith,” says Kudaimi, who identifies as Muslim. She adds that her journey as a Syrian immigrant led to “a deep sense of responsibility to contribute to and advocate for those in the lands I come from. As an undergraduate, I stumbled upon the field of public health, finding fulfillment in a career that married my love of health and public service.” 

She soon realized that she could use her academic knowledge and the institutional support of the UCI community, including faculty mentors such as Professor Alana Lebron, Professor Miryha Runnerstrom, and Professor Ian Straughn, and staff mentors like Andrea Gutierrez, to complete a research thesis in the Public Health Honors Program and to make a positive impact on critical issues like food insecurity. “I campaigned in a student fee referendum to institutionalize a food pantry, led a research project that explored the barriers to food security, and helped establish the largest basic needs center in the U.S.,” Kudaimi says, referring to the Fresh Basic Needs Hub, where she currently coordinates the CalFresh program

Kudaimi achieved summa cum laude honors in International Studies and Public Health Policy, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society as a junior (top 1%), and was among only nine students to complete the highly-selective Public Health Honors Program in 2017-18. 

 After graduating, Kudaimi served as a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow in the 25th class of fellows. As an Emerson Fellow, Kudaimi worked with the University District Food Bank in Seattle on the organization’s college hunger initiative. She also wrote a policy memo that informed House Bill 1893 to provide emergency assistance to students, which was signed into Washington state law in 2019. During the second half of her fellowship, she worked on a research project concerning the U.S. Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) at the non-profit organization 1,000 Days in Washington D.C.  

 In her present work as the CalFresh Coordinator at the FRESH Basic Needs Hub, Kudaimi manages a team of Student Assistants and builds partnerships across campus to raise awareness of CalFresh benefits.

About the Scholarship Opportunities Program (SOP)

Throughout the application process, Kudaimi worked closely with UCI’s Scholarship Opportunities Program (SOP). She relied on SOP staff for personalized advising as well as for assistance in earning UCI’s endorsement through a campus-level interview with administrators and faculty. 

Launched in 1990, the SOP supports UCI’s mission to encourage high-achieving undergraduates to compete for the most prestigious scholarships, grants, and graduate fellowships available. The SOP organizes and disseminates information on 21 merit-based awards, including opportunities for funded research and study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The SOP also facilitates UCI’s processes for evaluating applications and endorsing candidates for awards requiring University nomination. Additionally, SOP staff provide individual and group advising, present workshops, assist students with curriculum vitae (CVs), edit Statements of Purpose and research/project proposals, and help strengthen student interview skills.

Kudaimi shares that her experience with SOP staff was overwhelmingly positive. She encourages any students who are interested in applying to be proactive and seek help from the SOP. 

“You never know until you try, and the SOP makes a somewhat daunting application process very manageable. It’s easy to feel like ‘Who am I to shoot for something like this?,’ but don’t ever discredit yourself and your achievements. You have a lot to offer to the world. I learned so much about myself personally and professionally and my capabilities throughout this process.”

Congratulations and Words of Support

Michael Dennin, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, Dean of Undergraduate Education, and Professor of Physics and Astronomy (whose office oversees the SOP) congratulated Kudaimi on receiving such a prestigious honor:

“It is students like Malak that affirm UCI’s commitment to tackling the world’s greatest challenges and to serving the community in truly meaningful ways. I am incredibly proud of what she has achieved, and I know she will go on to do exceptional things at LSE.”

Rose Jones, Director of the SOP, also shares her excitement:

“We are thrilled to see Malak represent the Anteater community in the UK. Not only will she be a great researcher and cultural ambassador during her year of graduate study as a Marshall Scholar, but she will also forge lifelong relationships with colleagues from around the world that will yield benefits to communities both local and global.”

Courtney Santos, Kudaimi’s primary SOP Scholarship Advisor, adds:

“Working with Malak throughout the scholarship application and Finalist interview process has been one of the greatest joys and privileges of my career as she truly reflects the best of UCI in all that she does. Malak and I would also like to thank Vice Provost Michael Dennin, Associate Dean Donald Dabdub, SOP Director Rose Jones, Scholarship Advisor Brendan Park, SOP and Phi Beta Kappa Coordinator Brenda Fisher, Writing Specialist Kerri McCanna, and our amazing Student Advisor team for their steadfast support of her scholarship journey.”

Once again, the entire OVPTL family would like to sincerely congratulate Malak Kudaimi for being named a Marshall Scholar and wish her the best as she continues to make a difference in the world. Interested in learning about and applying for prestigious merit-based scholarships? Then turn to the SOP for assistance! Visit the SOP’s website for more information.