Saint Louis University

Shabana Basij-Rasikh
Shabana Basij-Rasikh

The 14th annual Sam and Marilyn Fox Atlas Week program will be held the week of March 31 - April 4. One of the main goals of the Atlas Program is to increase awareness of the global issues that confront us today in an effort not only to promote discussion, but also to inspire and inform action. It focuses on what we as global citizens can do to contribute to a better life for all people now and in the future. The Atlas Program is unique in that for one week of the year, it brings together members of the University community to focus on the global challenges that confront us in the 21st century.

The theme for the 2014 Atlas Program is "Education: Igniting the Flames of Change." Shabana Basij-Rasikh will deliver the keynote address at the Atlas Week Signature Symposium at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3, in the Wool Ballroom of Busch Student Center. She will be visiting SLU for two days, April 2-3, to share her advocacy efforts and her inside views on Afghanistan.

Basij-Rasikh is co-founder and president of SOLA (School of Leadership, Afghanistan), a nonprofit that helps exceptional young Afghan women access education worldwide and jobs back home. SOLA is also the first, and perhaps the only, girls' boarding school in Afghanistan.

Born and raised in Kabul, Basij-Rasikh finished high school in the United States through the State Department's Youth Exchange Studies program. She went on to attend Middlebury College, graduating magna cum laude in international studies and women and gender studies in 2011.

In college, she founded HELA, a non-profit to empower Afghan women through education. She also raised funds across the U.S. to build a high school for girls in her ancestral village, and wells in the outskirts of Kabul. In 2011, Basij-Rasikh received the Vermont Campus Compact Award for Outstanding Public Service. In 2011-2012, Basij-Rasikh was the National Gender Mainstreaming Advisor at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in Kabul.

Basij-Rasikh co-founded SOLA in 2008 with four students. Today, 23 girls and 2 boys, aged 11 to 22, represent all major ethnic groups, religious sects and tribes, and half of Afghan provinces in SOLA's preparatory program in Kabul. SOLA scholars attend boarding schools, colleges and graduate programs in the United States and around the world, including Bates, Loomis Chaffee, Middlebury, Mt. Holyoke, Northfield Mt. Hermon, Smith and Tufts.

SOLA's mission is to provide these future leaders of Afghanistan with global educational opportunities so that they can — and will — return home to develop Afghan solutions to Afghan problems.

Over the next five years, Basij-Rasikh plans to grow SOLA into a world-class, accredited boarding school with 340 students from all Afghan provinces. The strength of her vision for advancing Afghanistan, drawing on her personal story and that of the school she founded, have propelled her onto the world stage.

The Atlas Week Planning Committee welcomes and encourages all faculty, staff, and students to participate in the program and share their international knowledge, scholarship and service with the wider university community. Past events have included special lectures, roundtable discussions, open classes, international films, cultural performances, and special exhibits.

The Atlas Planning Committee will begin accepting event submissions on Monday, Nov. 25, through Feb. 5. While early submissions are encouraged, do not submit events before all details have been finalized. The online event submission form includes submission guidelines. To submit an event, visit the Atlas Week website.

Atlas Week will open with an Interfaith Prayer Service on Monday, March 31, in St. Francis Xavier College Church. The program will conclude on Friday, April 3, with the Parade of Nations and the Billiken World Festival. For more information or to get involved in the planning process, contact Michelle Lorenzini at or visit