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).7 Comments