Sweet Briar’s first Grant for Engaged Learning leads student to D.C.

Shifti and class
Shifti Kamal (second from right) and her class in Arlington, Va., ready for the EU simulation

When Sweet Briar announced its new Grants for Engaged Learning, international affairs, psychology and philosophy triple major Shifti Kamal ’20 immediately knew she could put the money to good use. This fall, she participated in the 26th annual Mid-Atlantic European Union Simulation and became the first Sweet Briar student to complete a GEL-funded project.

“I wanted to take as many classes as I could last year, so I started taking classes at [the University of Lynchburg],” Kamal told us. “I figured I should use the tri-college consortium opportunity we have here. They offer classes different from Sweet Briar, and I wanted to have a different experience.”

By the end of the spring semester, she was looking into taking more University of Lynchburg classes in the fall. She found a European Union politics class with Professor Marek Payerhin.

“This EU politics class involved the Mid-Atlantic EU simulation competition. Professor [Jeffrey] Key once told me Sweet Briar used to participate in it, which made me want to do it,” Kamal said. “I’ve always been interested in debating, but never had a great opportunity to do it. So when I finally found one, I took it. I also thought I should sharpen my EU politics knowledge more. So this class was a perfect fit. But of course, this competition cost money — which I couldn’t afford.”

And that’s where the Grant for Engaged Learning came in. Over the summer, Kamal found out that each Sweet Briar student would be eligible for up to $2,000 to fund research, internships or study abroad, effective immediately. Kamal wasted no time writing a proposal to fund the $390 to cover registration, hotel and travel expenses for the EU simulation. And the College rewarded her enthusiasm.

“It made the entire experience much more enjoyable and stress-free,” Kamal admitted. “This simulation helped me gain the confidence that I will carry with me.”

Shifti Kamal
Kamal was elected co-chair of the Green party.

The competition took place in Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va., Nov. 9-11. While in D.C., the team also visited the German embassy for a diplomatic briefing. Kamal and her classmates represented Germany, as well as a small governmental delegation from Austria.

“Historical memories in Europe are long, so we knew we were in for much resistance just for being Germany while discussing strengthening the military …  (and the environment),” Professor Payerhin wrote in an email. “Indeed, we found out that most of the other delegations/universities focused much of their energies on preempting our influence.”

Kamal was elected co-chair of the comparatively small Green party — one of several political parties in Germany — which proved tough at times, she said.

“It was hard for us to pass our amendments of the legislation as we needed majority votes,” Kamal explained. “Regardless, we were able to pass seven out of nine amendments, which required a lot of hard work. There was a lot of negotiation. Especially for five of our major amendments, I was able to convince and bring a few larger parties — who actually didn’t agree with each other — under our umbrella and was able to pass the amendments. There was a lot of debate and strategy involved.”

It sounds like Kamal might just be a natural, and her Grant for Engaged Learning was well worth the investment.

“I had an amazing experience,” she concluded. “The professor asked me to rejoin his class next year, but this time, instead of a member of the European Parliament, I will go in as a leader!”

There’s still money left in her GEL fund, and she plans to apply again next year for another EU simulation.