Mian wins prestigious Luce scholarship for Asia study

Cross-cultural communication and innovation are needed now to solve the world’s critical environmental problems.

So says Michael Mian, a senior in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, whose dedication to helping people and the Earth live in harmony has earned him a 2011-2012 scholarship from the Henry Luce Foundation in New York City.

The Luce funds a year of living and learning in Asia for recent college graduates and young professionals who have had only limited exposure to the continent. The foundation’s goal is to connect future American leaders with Asian colleagues in their fields. Selection criteria include outstanding academic achievement and leadership ability. The Luce’s value depends on where the foundation places its recipients.

With 31 Luce Scholars since the program began in 1974, Carolina leads the nation in its number of Luce recipients. This year, 67 colleges and universities nationwide nominated 151 candidates for the Luce; the foundation chose 18 scholars.

Mian, 21, the son of Patricia and Dr. Khalid Mian of Concord, said working in Asia will help him achieve his ultimate goal of dealing with climate change and other environmental puzzles.

“Asia faces unique environmental challenges, and many of its nations are integral in developing international regulatory and market frameworks on global environmental issues,” he said. “Collaboration between Asia and the Western world will be critical, and the time to pursue meaningful long-term action is now.”

Mian majors in political science and a self-designed major, environmental justice and conflict resolution, with a minor in entrepreneurship, in the College of Arts and Sciences. He plans graduate work in environmental law and business after his time in Asia.

“Michael Mian’s academic record is a testament to his capacity to use his impressive intellectual skills to create positive, equitable changes throughout society,” said Linda Dykstra, Ph.D., Office of Distinguished Scholarships director and William Rand Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Psychology.

Raymond B. Farrow III, executive director of UNC’s Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise and chair of the UNC Luce nominating committee, called Mian “an exceptional young man who has a promising future ahead.”

The honor is not Mian’s first among distinguished national scholarships. Last year he received one of 80 Udall Scholarships nationwide, chosen from 537 nominees. As a senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham in 2007, Mian was awarded a Morehead-Cain Scholarship to Carolina. The full, four-year merit scholarship also provides four summer enrichment experiences. His summers have taken him to outdoor leadership training and internships with the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Uganda; the broadcast-film operation of Smithsonian Channel HD in Washington, D.C.; and the Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia, where he helped assess carbon mitigation projects.

Mian has studied abroad in Spain. Proficient in Spanish, he has tutored a local Latino immigrant. He also was a delegate to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, conducting research there for a think-tank fellowship. He has been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, helped steer UNC leadership development programs and was one of just 10 undergraduates chosen to design and teach his own accredited course, “Environmental Conflict Resolution and Environmental Justice.”

Mian’s conviction that good communication is key to solving important issues stems from an experience in seventh grade, when “I and other uncomprehending adolescents witnessed the Sept. 11 attacks,” he said. “The biracial son of a Pakistani immigrant father, I was the only student who resembled the 19 hijackers. Wry jokes and aggressive questioning from my classmates soon followed.”

Remembering that experience helps Mian realize that healthy dialogue about differences is essential to creating innovative solutions – an approach he plans to use in his work for the environment: “Climate change may be the defining challenge of my generation, and climatic effects will likely exacerbate almost all environmental conflict.”