Monday, March 19, 2012

Shereen Hassanein - Be Heard!

"In ten years I want to have a Masters degree and be working on a Doctoral degree" was what 17-year old me told my high school guidance counselor. I stumbled upon this interview  about 9 months ago as I cleaned out my belongings at home and packed my car for the 850 mile drive over to Terre Haute, Indiana to start working on a Master of Science in Student Affairs and Higher Education. Though neither one of my parents had received any kind of formal education, education was a value that they both instilled in me and higher education became a passion of mine.

When I enrolled at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, I was fully aware of my status as a first-generation college student. Prior to starting in the fall I attended a summer bridge program, which was a stipulation attached to one of the grants I was receiving in order to help pay for my college education.  I came from from a low-income background, so for my family a college education was means toward a high paying job and a better life.  My parents expected me to study pre-law or something business related. They were quite surprised when I announced that I was double majoring in Journalism and Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies. They told me that Journalism was a leisurely career meant for the rich and that I'd never get a job in politics, but I was too stubborn to back down. While I agree that college is a means to a better future, that is not the only purpose that a college education serves. For me it turned out to be so much more than that.

When I started at Rutgers I lived in a Special Interest Section called Latin Images. Latin Images is a student-run organization as well as a housing option for students that are interested in learning about Latin American culture. I lived there for the majority of my time at Rutgers. My last two years there I was the president Latin Images. This role allowed me to work closely with Residence Life staff at Rutgers, learn about their job functions, and learn about Student Affairs. My role with Latin Images also afforded me the opportunity to become a student leader, a mentor and role model to those in that community, build an inclusive community on the floor, plan and implement dozens of programs, branch out into other communities and build long-lasting relationships.

When I left Latin Images to become a Resident Assistant, it was because I wanted to create that same welcoming and inclusive community elsewhere on campus. That year I also became a mentor through the Rutgers Future Scholars Mentor Program, a student leader in two more organizations, and a Teaching Assistant for class for incoming Resident Assistants. I already knew that I was passionate about education, but I discovered that I was also passionate about helping others.

I knew that I wanted to get into the field of Student Affairs, but I could not have done it without the many mentors and role models I had along the way. From my Resident Assistant to my advisers and my Supervisors, these Student Affairs Professionals and Paraprofessionals were nothing but helpful and and fiercely supportive of me, especially during the graduate school application process. I hope to be that same kind of support system, mentor, and resource to others along my journey in Student Affairs. After all, what would we be without the people who believe in us more than we believe in ourselves?


  1. Shereen,

    "What would we be without the people who believe in us more than we believe in ourselves?" I love that quote! So true!

    It was neat to hear about your undergraduate experience, and it puts things in perspective for me, and really illustrates how similar and different our backgrounds were, simultaneously. Very different family lives and expectations, but similar on-campus leadership roles and experiences.

    I think it's great that you want to pass along that idea of support and mentorship, and no doubt you already have. Often the best mentors come from individuals who have been in exactly your shoes--and you can be that mentor for first generation students in a way that I will struggle with.

    Thank you for sharing your story!


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