student Spotlight

December Student Spotlight with Sajida Ibrahim-Hameer, MSEd '20

dec 17 student spotlight

For some, higher education isn’t just something you engage with to get a degree – it becomes a lifelong passion to learn about and contribute to this rich, multi-faceted industry. In this month’s student spotlight we discuss Sajida’s path to the Marxe School’s MSEd program, what she’s learning, and what the future holds.

It took you six years to apply to the MSEd program. Why did you wait so long? What did you need to feel comfortable with to apply?
I could say “LIFE,” is why I waited so long. It just took over everything and I got busy with work and family. Time just passed on by until one day I realized I needed to do something more with my life otherwise I would be stuck in the same place with no future ahead.

But the honest answer is I needed a break from the work/school life. From my freshman year in college, I worked and took classes full-time. After I graduated, I decided I would take a yearlong break after which I would apply for my masters. In that one year I was to “shop” around for a suitable program that I would be interested in and happy to pursue, that would also enable me to advance my career. Of course that never happened! Fast forward to six years later and I was still at the same job, although I had gotten various promotions, and the same bachelor’s degree.

I do not think I needed anything to feel comfortable with applying to a program, per say. I just needed a firm push! This push came from my supervisor at the time, Eelco Slagter. I worked closely with him for about two years. He was the one that pointed me in the direction of the program and believed that I would make a great candidate, since I have been in the higher education industry for 10+ years. He helped push me in the right direction, mentored me and I am ever grateful and thankful to him. The one thing that he said to me that stayed with me is, “applying to the program is the hardest part, and once you are in you’ll always wonder why it took you so long!” And I whole-heartedly agree. Going through the motions of studying for the GRE and writing the perfect essay and submitting all the documents was nerve-wracking, but he was there the whole way encouraging me. When I finally got the acceptance letter, he was the first person I messaged and he could not have been happier!

Of course I cannot forget my other supervisor, Houry Tcheroyan, who has also been extremely supportive and encouraging through my journey. I couldn’t have asked for a better support system between her and my family – especially my husband. Without all of them, I wouldn’t be striving in this program.

Today, as I look back, I can’t believe it’s already been three semesters. Time just flew by!

How do you feel now that you’ve been in the program for three semesters?
I couldn’t be happier. The program is challenging but very enlightening. It makes you think outside the box. It’s given me a new prospective on how the higher education industry works with all it’s moving parts.

Sometimes I feel in this industry every department thinks that what they do is important, however, there are other people who you may not see or hear, whose job is so much more important than yours. If they didn’t do it correctly, we’d all suffer the consequences. While other times, you feel like your job is inconsequential to the bigger picture and nobody cares about what you do, but every task each person performs, makes a difference to the bigger picture.

I learned this important lesson this past semester in my finance class, which was taught by Dr. Jeffrey Apfel. This class really put into perspective how different departments work together, albeit from a finance perspective, to make sure the college runs well and is successful, not only financially but physically as well.

There are times when you’re in the class and you wonder why we’re learning about presidents and vice presidents and their decision-making process. Maybe they should start from the ground up, in the hierarchy process, but in reality it’s the decisions they make at the top that dictate the direction of our work.

And that’s what I believe this program is trying to teach us. Adapting to our duties and roles as they constantly change in the face of new rules, polices, and procedures. As the higher education industry evolves, we as the staff/faculty need to evolve with it in order to make a difference.

What drew you to the Marxe School’s MSEd program?
I’ve been in the higher education industry for 10+ years; I got my start while working as an Admission Assistant at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), where I learned firsthand how to communicate with students from a diverse background and anticipate their needs. Working as an Admissions Assistant not only exposed me to the admissions processes and procedures but also gave me an insight into what goes on from the time the student submits their application to the time they start their first class.

My move to Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) afforded me the opportunity to learn a new side of higher education – the administrative and finance side of things. This is a very important part of higher education since it gives you an idea of how things work from a business prospective.

Hence, the combination of my experience and the diversity of classes being offered is what drew me to the program. In this program, I feel, you learn about every aspect of the education industry. Be it dealing with students or working in the President’s office from history about higher education to the future of higher education. It covers everything.

Another thing, that’s important to me, is the fact that I can take a few online courses. This helps with making the program more accessible and flexible for me. Especially with familial duties it’s hard sometimes to find the time to go to class twice every week. So the flexibility allows me to gain classroom experience as well as work at my own leisure.

What are you hoping to do with your degree?
One of the main things I hope to gain from this program is to advance my career and move into a supervisory role. My current job does not allow for that opportunity since I work in an office of two. However, I feel that this degree will equip me with the knowledge I need to move into any department or position I choose to apply to within the higher education industry and beyond.