From the moment she arrived at UConn, Sumia Hussain dedicated her college career to empowering others. The allied health sciences major founded a student organization, interned abroad and planned many on-campus events. Now, Sumia hopes to continue this pattern of leadership and service to others as she graduates in the spring and enters the public health field. Here is what she said in an interview.
What attracted you to UConn? Growing up in Connecticut, I constantly heard about UConn. I attended many events that were hosted by the Pakistani Community at UConn (PCUC) and performances at Jorgenson Center for the Performing Arts. However, I still did not plan to attend UConn until my Husky-for-a-Day visit. I fell in love with UConn that day. I loved seeing how engaged, involved and spirited students are on campus. I was also lucky enough to receive the Day of Pride Scholarship and be accepted into the Honors Program. The Honors Program gave me the opportunity to have a small college experience at a large university.
Why did you choose your particular major? This may sound cheesy, but I believe with conviction that I will make a difference. However, I always thought that in order to do this I had to choose between clinical healthcare and public policy. I didn’t realize I could combine them both until I took Introduction to Allied Health Professions. I learned about the public health field, and I completely fell in love. Now, I am majoring in allied health sciences with a concentration in public health and health promotion, and I am minoring in political science and human rights.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? During my freshman year, a few of my motivated peers and I founded UConn Empower. This is a student organization for those that are committed to making a difference in the world. Our mission is to empower people through education, public health and developmental projects.
Every year, UConn Empower picks a non-governmental organization in Africa or South Asia to work with on a project that aligns with both organizations’ mission statements. Our first project was with A Better World Cameroon, an orphanage in West Africa. We provided the orphanage with fifteen laptops, equipped with Khan Academy software to help with math and science learning, and organized different public health projects. Six months later, a new group of students followed up on the project and helped build a garden.
Not only are we committed to working abroad, we are also dedicated to empowering our members and the UConn community. My biggest contribution to UConn Empower is creating an inclusive, creative and fun environment. For instance, we organize the annual campus Underwear Mile and the giant water balloon fight, USplash.
Watching UConn Empower grow and transform over the last three years has been my favorite experience at UConn.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. This past summer, I studied abroad through U21 Social Entrepreneurship Corps in Guatemala. Students from six different universities around the world participated in this four-week program. While in Guatemala, I lived with a host family and interned at Soluciones Comunitarias, or Community Enterprise Solutions. This organization is focused on social and economic development through empowering community members and supporting their entrepreneurial ventures. This was an amazing opportunity that gave me great experience in international development and allowed me to make friends from all over the world.
I am also extremely involved in the Asian American Cultural Center on campus. I am a coordinator of the Pan Asian Council (PAC), which means I am involved in planning Homecoming and Asian Nite.
In addition, I was the marketing and public relations coordinator for Spring Weekend last year and planned some of the major events. I love that I was able to help bring a positive Spring Weekend back to UConn.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? UConn offers so many different opportunities that it can sometimes be overwhelming. My biggest challenge was definitely trying to find a balance between academics, extracurricular activities and being good to myself. During my freshman year, I worked myself into the ground. However, I learned that I couldn’t help others if I couldn’t take care of myself first. I carried this with me for the rest of my UConn career.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I expect to graduate in May 2015. After graduation, I want to take a couple years to decide what to do in the public health field. While at UConn, my courses related to administration and policy, but my experiences have been more in international development. Before I pursue further education, I want to spend one year doing global development work and one year working in policy.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I am a College Ambassador for CAHNR. This opportunity has helped me to feel like an integral part of the CAHNR community, get to know my professors and advisors and meet people that are studying all different things. I am also the social media chair for the College.