Brock grad’s journey comes full circle with new scholarship fund for international students

Ridha Chilmeran (BA ’09, MBE ’11) remembers the welcoming atmosphere he encountered upon his arrival to Brock University.

After listening to older brother Ahmed (BSc ’06) describe campus as a place of culture and community, Ridha and his other brother Hassan (BA ’09, MBE ’11) were drawn to the University in 2004 — and instantly felt connected.

“As a newcomer, I always felt welcome at Brock,” said Ridha, whose family is from Iraq. “I received a great deal of support and encouragement from my colleagues and professors, which encouraged me to get involved during my university experience, including becoming both a teaching and research assistant during my studies.”

Ridha went on to complete his Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Master of Business Economics (Co-op) at Brock, which led him to a successful career in government relations and community engagement.

A father stands in the middle of his two sons who are wearing blue graduation robes.

Brothers Hassan (left) and Ridha Chilmeran (right) flank their father, Sohaib Chilmeran, at their Brock University Convocation in 2009.

With the University helping to pave Ridha’s path to success, he is now giving back to the Brock and international student community — all while honouring his role model in life.

Ridha has established the Sohaib Chilmeran Scholarship Fund, which will serve as a tribute to his father while also supporting the accomplishments of current-day international students.

“Our dad not only supported our dreams, he also encouraged them,” Ridha said of Sohaib, who is now 78. “He encouraged all three of us to come to Canada to continue our education, while not losing sight of the important value that is family. He wanted to see us siblings stay together in one place, and we did.”

Ridha attributes much of his achievements to his father and to the values that were instilled in him from a young age.

The Sohaib Chilmeran Scholarship will be awarded to a third-year undergraduate student who is both participating in a co-op program and a newcomer to Canada. Its creation brings Ridha’s Brock journey full circle, having received his permanent residency just after his third year at the University.

In March, third-year Computer Science Co-op student Hamza Sidat was selected as the inaugural recipient of the scholarship. He was recognized for the perseverance and resilience he’s shown since coming to Brock from Gujarat, India.

“As an international student, this scholarship will not only help me financially but also, as an achievement, motivate me to continue the hard work that it takes to excel in my studies,” Sidat said.

He is currently completing the co-op portion of his program as a Highway Corridor Management Co-op Associate with Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, where his focus is on software testing.

A family of five poses for a photo together while outside.

The Chilmeran family, including (from left) Ridha, Zeena, Ahmed, Hassan and Sohaib, are pictured during Ridha and Hassan’s 2009 graduation from Brock University.

“As National Co-op and Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Month comes to a close, we hope students will see Ridha’s journey as a reflection of how a student’s overall experience, including their participation in experiential learning opportunities such as co-op, encourages and supports their efforts to persevere and achieve personal growth and development goals,” said Julia Zhu, Brock’s Associate Director of Co-op Education.

Ridha hopes the scholarship will inspire other alumni to give back as a tribute to their own family name and to show appreciation for parents around the globe.

Sonia Dupte, Executive Director, Development and Campaigns, said gifts like Ridha’s highlight the impact a positive post-secondary education experience has on Brock students and their desire to give back to the University community.

“Student award support has a significant impact on our students and their experience here at Brock,” Dupte said. “We are grateful for the generosity of our alumni and donors and celebrate the faculty, staff and community that make experiential learning opportunities at Brock a possibility.”

As for Ridha, he aspires to continue his innovative career and make his dad proud by combining his interests in politics and entrepreneurship.

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