Success born from struggles
Student success is a focus of every institution of higher education. But at University of the Pacific, it means more than just earning a degree. By the time Pacific sends its students out into the world, they are prepared for a lifetime of achievement and leadership in their careers and in their communities.
Meet Aroosa Ahmed '16, a Pacific graduate poised to make a lasting and meaningful difference in all aspects of her life.
Within her first week as a student on Pacific's Stockton Campus, Aroosa Ahmed '16 had experienced the benefit of the university's small class sizes. The sense of community they created was a big source of comfort for the soft-spoken Stockton woman who would be living at home.
Aroosa Ahmed '16 took advantage of Pacific's support services and programs and important faculty mentors like Professor Carolyn Kohn (above), and in turn has helped dozens of other students be successful. In 2015, she was recognized for her achievements with the Cliff Docterman Outstanding Junior Scholarship. She is going on to the No. 1 graduate school in the country for social work, the University of Michigan.
By the end of her first year at Pacific, the psychology and sociology major had been invited to participate in two research labs, a rarity for an undergraduate student. And by the time she graduated in May, Ahmed, who had helped support her family through several on-campus jobs, had been accepted to the No. 1-ranked graduate program in the country for social work, the University of Michigan.
While Ahmed openly says that Pacific wasn't her first choice (UC Berkeley, which granted her admission, was), she needed to stay in her hometown because of family and financial circumstances.
Today she says that attending Pacific was the best choice she could have made.
The key to her getting into the top graduate program in the country was the individual attention she received, Ahmed said, and she is quick to give credit to the resources she found at Pacific. Her professors in the sociology and psychology departments were instrumental, in particular Susan Mannon, an associate professor of sociology, and Carolynn Kohn and Scott Jensen, associate professors of psychology. They discussed in-depth with her different graduate program options, helped her with her personal statements and told her their personal stories of going through graduate school.
"Their mentorship and guidance paved the way for me to achieve my dreams," Ahmed said.
Then there was the help she received from several other Pacific programs and departments, the Career Resource Center among them. Throughout her last year at Pacific, she met with the center's staff to discuss her future goals and how to reach them. They reviewed her resumes and cover letters for graduate program admission and for graduate assistantships. She also received tutoring and guidance from Student Academic Support Services and from the SUCCESS TRiO Program, a retention program for first-generation, low-income students.
In turn, she has given back to other students. She became a student representative for the SUCCESS TRiO Program and worked with campus and community leaders to improve outreach and retention services. She also helped launch the SUCCESS TRiO peer mentoring and tutoring program and assisted disadvantaged students facing financial and other issues.
"The ability to provide hope for these students and a sense of belonging gave me deep joy and fulfillment," Ahmed reflected.
As a Pacific student adviser, she worked with more than 30 first-year students to help them successfully transition to college life. Though not always easy, it's work that has made a difference in the lives of Pacific students. Her most challenging — and rewarding — experience came when she helped a student who became homeless get connected with resources and find housing. While some aspects of the student's situation had been out of Ahmed's control, she later realized how she had become a vital support system for the student just by comforting her and listening to her.
"Pacific is known for its small classroom sizes and as a place where professors know your name, however, I have come to appreciate that it is so much more than this."
— Aroosa Ahmed '16
Ahmed's future plans will allow her to continue to help others, in particular first-generation college students and Muslim-American women, of which she is one.
"Ensuring an accessible education for vulnerable communities is a particular passion of mine since it has been such a struggle of my own to pursue a college education," she said.
And now she is off to fulfill a personal ambition to pursue not only a degree but a meaningful career as well.
"Pacific is known for its small classroom sizes and as a place where professors know your name," Ahmed said. "However, I have come to appreciate that it is so much more than this."