Amirah Sequeira CC ’12 has received a prestigious Gates-Cambridge Scholarship, awarded to outstanding applicants from countries outside the United Kingdom to pursue graduate degrees at the University of Cambridge.
Sequeira, who majored in history with a special concentration in sustainable development, will use the scholarship to pursue a one-year MPhil in History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science, Medicine and Technology. Afterwards, she plans to continue her career in political advocacy and grassroots organizing for health justice.
Sequeira, who is interested in the historical intersections of class, race, gender and sexuality with health and policy, is currently the National Coordinator of the Student Global AIDS Campaign, a U.S. based network of student and youth activists committed to ending the AIDS pandemic through strategic political action. Her work focuses on U.S. global health funding programs and ensuring access to affordable medications for all who need them.
“The Gates Cambridge is a fantastic opportunity for me to expand my capacity to handle large global questions of health inequality,” Sequeira said. “The Gates Cambridge provides a community of leaders committed to critically engaging with ideas for social change, and I’m really humbled to have the opportunity to contribute to and learn from that community.”
“My work in the AIDS movement has shown me the importance of academic scholarship in pursuing social change,” Sequeira said. “I believe that a historical understanding of the systems that create health injustice will better my work as a global health and social justice activist.”
Sequeira, who is from Winnipeg, Canada, has been involved in youth organizing and political advocacy in the AIDS movement since high school. She spent her high school years training young AIDS advocates in Canada, and, during college, helped to lead the rebirth of the Student Global AIDS Campaign in the United States. As a student at Columbia, she was also co-president of CU Student Global AIDS Campaign, co-President of CU Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, and a secretary and a representative for the Student Governing Board, where she worked with all of Columbia’s activist, humanitarian, religious and cultural groups. She was a founding board member for the student Journal of Global Health.
“I really miss all of these organizations and all of the wonderful critically engaging relationships they formed,” Sequeira said. “They were the core of my Columbia experience, and I'm so blessed to have been part of these spaces on campus.”
As a College student, Sequeira held internships with Health Global Access Project, the Apollo Theater and Duke Energy Corp., and spent a summer working at Sustainability Excellence Arabia in Amman. She also served as a research assistant for Samuel K. Roberts, associate professor of history.
She received the Charles Bjorkwall Prize, awarded annually to a member of the senior class for “unselfish service to the College community,” as well as the Alan Willen Prize, for the best history seminar paper on current American political problem, and a King’s Crown Leadership Award for her “indelible mark on the Columbia community.”
Sequeira’s research focuses on the history of AIDS activism, drug policy and harm reduction in New York City. Her senior thesis was titled: “Choosing Between Two Killers: The Debate Over Needle Exchange in New York City, 1985-1992”