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A Head Covering With a Cause

New Scholarship Helps Student Help Muslim Women

By Liam Farrell

Headscarf

John T. Consoli

John T. Consoli

Sophomore Omar Goheer’s burgeoning attempt to change the world began with rainstorms and a wet headscarf.

After hearing a friend complain about the solubility of her hijab, the traditional Islamic head covering, Goheer (below) started on an entrepreneurial path and can stay on it, thanks to the new TerpStart Matching Scholarship Program.

Omar Goheer

A Muslim himself, Goheer surveyed fellow Terps and other friends and their classmates across the country to gauge the market for a waterproof hijab. Instead, he discovered a second frustration: They’re uncomfortable in warm weather.

Now Goheer, a double major in economics and chemistry in the Honors College’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, is developing a hijab that can breathe a little easier and then be sold by Muslim women in their own countries, à la Mary Kay. He named his company K. Sultana after his mother, but the symbolism goes beyond that. “Sultana,” which means “Queen” in Arabic, reflects Omar’s belief that women in Muslim countries and around the world deserve to be treated like one.

“(They) deserve the right to an education, equal rights in society,” he says.

With Maryland students annually facing approximately $80 million in unmet financial need, TerpStart donors create an endowment with a gift of at least $30,000 to fund students from any college, school, major or department. The university matches the income generated each year from those endowments to exponentially increase their reach.

Goheer says it offers “peace of mind.”

“I can definitely just focus more on (the project) than worry about any financial problems.”

He’s one of the students benefitting from a scholarship established by Ryan L. Dearborn ’90, chief executive officer and chairman of the real estate firm Wood Partners and a member of UMD’s board of trustees. Dearborn says students are at a critical point to start getting entrepreneurial experience.

“It’s a period when you can make mistakes,” he says. “It just helps you get to the next stage. This is a way to experiment, to learn, to try things.”

Goheer hopes to have a sellable product by the Islamic Society of North America’s summer convention, and thinks sheer georgette fabric may be the sweet spot between lightweight but slippery silk and tough but hot wool. Beyond that, he is looking forward to more chances to take advantage of Maryland’s innovative atmosphere.

“You view the world’s problems as an opportunity,” Goheer says.

For more information on TerpStart, visit terpstart.umd.eduor contact Heidi Onskt, senior director for university development for strategic initiatives, at 301.405.4643 or honskt@umd.edu.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.