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Points of Departure: Something I’m Convinced About

Shakeela Najjar (SAR’12)


Just days into freshman year, Shakeela Najjar was interviewed by BU Today for a story about the Class of 2012. Najjar (SAR’12), who grew up in New Bedford, Mass., talked about the characteristics that define her—her Muslim faith, her hopes, and her excitement about being on her own. Since then, she’s been featured in two other stories: one on her family’s tradition of observing Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, and the other discussing her volunteer work with a nonprofit that helps low-income patients stay healthy. It was perhaps inevitable that we would revisit Najjar one last time before she graduates.

“This is going to be the fourth time I’m on BU Today,” says Najjar. “People know what’s happening in my life, from what I’m thinking to what my family life is like.

“But this is really the most intimate thing I’ve shared.”

Najjar talks candidly here about her struggles to integrate her professional interests with her Muslim identity. Intent on becoming a doctor, she enrolled as a biology and premed major. As her studies progressed, she realized that spending hours in laboratories took her away from “the human factor” in both her interest in science and her religious beliefs. “With Islam, you have to weigh in the ethical implications of whatever your interests are,” she says.

After much introspection, Najjar decided to switch her major to health sciences, which not only fit better with her religious convictions, but allowed her to deepen her understanding of the world around her. “It connected my goals in my career with the compassion that I wanted to develop as a Muslim.”

She ultimately found the human factor she was missing. “Health sciences took me out of the lab and put me in the real world,” she says. She began taking classes in anthropology, sociology, women’s studies, African-American studies, and religion. “Health care is important to everyone,” she says. “So knowing that, I had to study as many different types of social groups as I could.”

“In the end,” she says, “expanding my academic experience helped me to refocus my beliefs and how I will approach my pursuits for the future.” After graduation, Najjar plans to move to Bangladesh to work in either an education- or a health care–related NGO.

“I’ve expanded myself intellectually,” she says, “and now I want to put myself in a place where I haven’t fully figured myself out. I want to continue to refine myself. That’s ultimately what my goal is.”

Additional editing by Kara Siebein (COM’12).

Alan Wong

Alan Wong can be reached at alanwong@bu.edu.

7 Comments on Points of Departure: Something I’m Convinced About

  • Robin B. on 05.08.2012 at 7:11 am

    Thank you for letting us tell your story over the past four years. Good luck with your plans for after graduation. BU won’t be the same without you.

  • odette on 05.08.2012 at 11:49 am

    This girl has alot of very important insight! After spending the last 4 years with her I have learned so much about her culture, her religion, and her unique perspective on life. She has made me think about things much differently than I used to and I can honestly say she has become a very influential person in my life as well. I think its great how she has been so dedicated to her religion, despite the many pressures and influences that she comes across in college. Im so proud of you shak! <3

  • LB on 05.08.2012 at 12:22 pm

    Shakeela’s openness is the very thing that makes her so approachable. She is always willing to share her struggles so that others can learn from her experiences. She is honest and trustworthy, and she always pushes the envelope intellectually while at the same time helping others do the same. She’s been an inspiration to me and I’m happy others get to hear from her as well.

  • HA HA on 05.12.2012 at 6:20 am

    the zoom is very annoying.

  • MC on 05.28.2012 at 10:00 pm

    I am curious as to why Ms. Najjar feels that having a medical career is in contradiction with her beliefs as a Muslim. As a medical student, my experience has taught me that medicine is as much about the “human factor” as it is about the life sciences if not more of the former.

    • Nadiyah on 05.29.2012 at 9:54 am

      Peace…Congratulations, Shakeela, and all the best in all of your pursuits.

    • Nadiyah on 05.29.2012 at 9:57 am

      MC…with all due respect, please review the article; she didn’t state a medical career was in contradiction with Islam or being Muslim. The statement about weighing ethical implications shouldn’t lead you to believe she stated there was/is a contradiction between her faith and her educational/career pursuits. Peace

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