Our Stories

Scholarship Winner Aspires to Help Her People

When Nurnigar "Noonie" Sawir '09 thinks about her future, she returns to her roots. Sawir grew up in Idaho, but her family comes from Urumqi, China. While most Americans have never heard of her people, there are about 8 to 10 million Uighur in the world.

The Uighur people, a minority in northwestern China, have a long history and distinctive culture related to the Turkish in central Asia. Many of them struggle with difficult living conditions and yearn for more opportunities, Sawir says. Sawir's strong ties to her culture, as well as her concern for the future of her people, are her inspiration for studying business management or international business and returning to China.

"I grew up in the United States, but at the same time, it's my heritage," she says. "I have a lot of ties to there. I want to help them improve their living conditions because I feel so lucky to have grown up in the States."

Sawir will further her knowledge of business through an opportunity she earned this spring. She was one of two Willamette University students to be named a Kemper Scholar by the James S. Kemper Foundation. The program prepares students for leadership and service in administration and business. Willamette is one of 15 small colleges that can nominate students for the award. In a typical year, the foundation chooses one student from each college, but this year, the foundation gave two Willamette students awards.

Sawir will receive a $3,000-$8,000 yearly scholarship for three years, as well as $2,000-$6,000 for internships during the summers after her sophomore and junior years. The first one will be in Chicago working for a major nonprofit organization, the second in whatever location she chooses. She also will be able to attend the annual Kemper Scholar Conference in Chicago.

Business has long been an interest for Sawir, who was active in Business Professionals of America during high school. She hopes to participate in the five-year combined BA/MBA program offered at Willamette's Atkinson Graduate School of Management.

"I want to study business because I think that through the power and connections a successful businessperson gains, I could have the most influence in bringing about positive change anywhere in the world," she says. "I'd love to help create that positive change for my people."