College of Ag Sciences alumnus receives Diana Award for humanitarian work

Shah Rafayat Chowdhury, a 2018 graduate of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has received the Diana Award. Credit: Diana AwardAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Shah Rafayat Chowdhury, a 2018 graduate of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has received the Diana Award, one of the highest accolades a young person can achieve for social action or humanitarian effort.

Established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, the award celebrates the achievements of outstanding young leaders from around the world who have demonstrated an ability to inspire and mobilize new generations to serve their communities, as Princess Diana believed they could. Chowdhury received the award during a virtual ceremony July 1, the birthday of the late princess.

Chowdhury, of Bangladesh, was recognized for making a difference in communities across Bangladesh through his youth-led social enterprise Footsteps Bangladesh. Since its inception in 2013, the nonprofit has designed and implemented more than 13 social ventures and campaigns, impacting 100,000 people across 15 districts in Bangladesh by ensuring access to safe water, integrating waste management solutions and enhancing disaster response.

He also designed Project Trishna, an initiative in which corporations can fund safe-water systems in marginalized communities in return for their branding and promotion. To date, Project Trishna has benefited more than 75,000 people, including 14,000 children.

At Penn State, Chowdhury, who holds a bachelor’s degree in community, environment, and development, stood out for his unwavering commitment to helping others, according to Tim Kelsey, program coordinator for the major and professor of agricultural economics.

“Even while taking classes, Shah was actively leading and working with Footsteps Bangladesh,” said Kelsey, who taught Chowdhury’s senior capstone class. “I would see his eyes light up when he would talk about his organization’s work and the difference it was making in communities. Such social action work matters deeply to him.”

Kelsey added that in the classroom, Chowdhury demonstrated innovative thinking about addressing complex issues, creativity in overcoming potential obstacles, and strong interpersonal leadership skills in inspiring others to help implement solutions.

The Diana Award is not Chowdhury's first international honor for his development work. He served as the People’s Republic of Bangladesh’s youth ambassador to several high-level United Nations summits, including the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Swiss-based Global Changemakers organization identified Chowdhury as one of 60 rising youth leaders from around the world.

Additionally, Chowdhury was one of 16 young leaders selected to speak and share ideas at the European Development Days Summit 2018. One of the world's premier policy events, the summit is hosted by the European Commission.

Deanna Behring, assistant dean and director of international programs for the college, said she was impressed by Chowdhury’s work ethic, passion and drive. 

“I don’t think he slept while at Penn State,” she said. “He loaded up on credits to graduate early so he could go home to Bangladesh and get to work. I am thrilled that he chose Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and the CED program to help him prepare for a life of fostering change and community impact.”



Last Updated July 09, 2020