Supporting the educational goals of others has always been important to me, because my mother was unable to finish college due to the Lebanese Civil War and my father’s access to higher education helped my family to succeed. As a first generation Arab-American woman in a post 9/11 U.S., I strongly believe that everyone, no matter their age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity, should have the resources they need to obtain fair, equitable, and beneficial education. I have committed myself to reducing the educational attainment and academic achievement gaps across my university service, teaching, research, and mentoring experiences.
Although over two-thirds of PhDs in psychology are awarded to women, fewer than half of assistant professors and fewer than one-third of full professors are women. To close the gap in utilization rates among female PhD students, I founded the Duke Psychology and Neuroscience Women’s Support Network with Dr. Beth Marsh. We subsequently earned a Professional Development Grant from the Graduate School to create programming aimed at 1) facilitating a supportive network that grows feelings of belongings and self-efficacy through exposure to peer and expert role models and direct mentorship and 2) promoting the work of senior women in the field as well as the diverse career paths that they may take. In particular, when we scheduled events, we ensured that some of our speakers were from underrepresented groups in STEM. My university service has also included acting as a discussion leader for Women in Science book clubs, discussing professional and career development issues at both Duke as a graduate student and Rutgers-Newark as a lab manager. In Durham, I have participated in outreach events that encourage students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue STEM careers, such as, but not limited to, the North Carolina Central Regional Science and Engineering Fair, Research Triangle Park STEM-focused Expos and Mentoring sessions, and Technoquest, aimed at North Carolina Girl Scouts, from the Graduate Women in Science. While I was the lab manager at Rutgers-Newark, I helped organize my lab’s summer “Brain Camp,” which involved a lab tour and brain science demonstration for high school students, meant to increase the number of Newark residents who obtain college degrees. Even when I was an undergraduate at Pomona College, I co-founded a creative expression club that prominently featured diverse creators in events for our series, “April Out Loud.” I continued my commitment to outreach as a residential adviser, fostering a safe and intellectually stimulating environment for students of all backgrounds and leading community-focused initiatives.
Teaching & Mentorship:
As a teacher and mentor, I hope to return the support that I have received, encouraging students from all backgrounds to pursue STEM careers. As a psychologist, I am in particular aware of how feedback needs to be individually tailored; when I teach, I make sure to give wise feedback (Cohen, Steele, and Ross, 1999), expressing my high standards with the firm belief that my students can reach their potential and these standards. I make sure to include on my syllabi a list of nearby gender-neutral bathrooms, a recommendation from when I wrote on “Becoming a Better Teacher: Trans* Inclusive Pedagogy.” I am also committed to using resources that are freely available, promoting open access for all students, and mentoring students from underrepresented groups. At Rutgers-Newark, I mentored Indian-American and African-American female students for a psychology practicum and research assistantship, and at Duke, I mentored a Chinese female student through her undergraduate neuroscience honors thesis as well as Hispanic and African-American first-year cognitive neuroscience graduate students. I also helped develop an undergraduate/graduate mentorship program for the Duke Women in Science and Engineering group so that women across disciplines could see themselves in their majors.
I have also tried to include underrepresented groups in my work and perform research that is directly applicable to reducing the academic achievement gap. As an undergraduate at Pomona College, I worked in the Levin lab, which focused on characterizing the transgender population. My research projects, using survey and behavioral data collected from LGBTQ conferences, were driven by the goal of giving an underrepresented community a voice within science. Now, at Duke and previously at Rutgers-Newark, my work on intelligence mindset also has direct applicability to the achievement gap: understanding how a malleable vs. fixed intelligence mindset improves academic agency can help later combat the effects of stereotype threat for underrepresented communities in educational domains (e.g., see Dweck and Yeager, 2012).
In the future, I would like to continue taking an active leadership role in promoting diversity. I would like to continue mentoring both undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups and seeking out outreach events that help promote STEM careers in underrepresented populations. Ultimately, I hope to exemplify my mentors in the words of the Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran: “It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”