Senior Anthony Ghaly remembers traveling to Bolivia with his physician father the summer after his junior year of high school. The trip was an annual medical mission sponsored by the Coptic Medical Association of North America to bring care to rural areas in underdeveloped countries. Ghaly wasn’t interested in medicine, and his dad had to push him to go, but the experience proved pivotal.
“I found everything interesting: the structures leading to these problems and the healthcare discrepancies we traveled there to address,” says Ghaly. “That’s where I started to mature and put language to my interests.”
He continued going to Bolivia the next three summers, through his junior year at Rutgers University–Newark, where he has blazed a trail not only as an exceptional student and campus leader but as a teacher, researcher and published scholar focusing on the intersections of political science, human rights and the law.
Ghaly arrived at RU-N with what he calls a simplistic but passionate interest in law and human rights, figuring he’d become a civil or human rights attorney. One of three children of Coptic Orthodox Christian parents who emigrated to the U.S. from Egypt and eventually settled in Totawa, NJ, Ghaly was acutely aware of the history of religious persecution Coptics have faced throughout the Middle East and was asking fundamental questions about religious freedom and human rights early on.
He held off on choosing a major freshman and sophomore year, however, and explored his interest in the social sciences and law by doing an internship with an immigration attorney the summer after freshman year, working as an undergraduate teaching assistant for Psychology Lecturer Jamie Gorman spring semester sophomore year, and serving as a research assistant in the lab of Psychology Associate Professor Luis Rivera the following summer and fall, focusing his energies on a project spanning law, criminology and psychology. And Ghaly started working as a tutor at the Writing Center fall semester sophomore year after many of his peers—including older medical-school students from his off-campus Coptic community—continued asking him for help with their English Composition essays while he was just a freshman.
“I didn’t realize I was that much better at writing than my peers, but I found many struggled with writing, and I wanted to help in a capacity that was more official,” says Ghaly. “As soon as I started, I was hooked. It was the impetus for my love of teaching.”
Things really changed for Ghaly spring semester of his sophomore year, when he took a political science research-methods class that touched on the topic of genocide. Ghaly leaped at the chance to write on the subject and explored why the U.S. still hadn’t formally recognized the Armenian genocide carried out in Turkey and adjoining regions by the Ottoman government between 1914 and 1923.
I realized I wanted to add this [political science] to my love of law, get a law degree and then Ph.D., and pursue a career in legal academia so I can teach, research and write.
The following semester, Ghaly took an Intro to Comparative Politics course with Assistant Professor Janice Gallagher, which focused on countries experiencing democratic rollbacks. He continued pursuing genocide research by doing a paper comparing the mass atrocities in Cambodia and Rwanda, becoming so enamored with the topic that he kept developing it into the spring semester of his junior year as an independent study with Gallagher, and on into the summer, for which he received an SASN Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. At that point, Ghaly approached the former Director of the Honors College, Brian Murphy, about joining and making the paper his senior honors thesis a year early, to which Murphy agreed. Gallagher also suggested that Ghaly submit the paper to an undergraduate journal for publication.
Sensing a related opportunity, Ghaly also had applied to, and was one of 38 advanced undergraduates and Ph.D. students accepted to, the Stanford Summer Institute in Political Psychology, an intensive three-week program in research methodologies taking place that same summer, where he presented his paper and received valuable feedback before submitting it for publication.
“This is the period when I fell in love with political science and got interested in becoming an academic,” says Ghaly. “I realized I wanted to add this to my love of law, get a law degree and then Ph.D., and pursue a career in legal academia so I can teach, research and write.”
Spring semester junior year, Ghaly also served as Community Outreach Senator for RU-N's Student Governing Association and became President of the Coptic Society, the organization for the 500-strong Coptic Christian students on campus. He also had just been promoted to Workshop Instructor at the Writing Center, where he developed and taught his own lecture-style writing workshops, and began studying for the LSATs. He capped off the semester by receiving the Emerging Leaders Award, given by the Office of Student Life, and being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honors Society.
“Spring semester of my junior year was by far my busiest time while in college,” says Ghaly.
Ghaly’s senior year was only slightly less hectic. He served as Chief Arbitrator of the SGA’s Judicial Council, continued as President of the Coptic Society, increased his teaching load at the Writing Center, and had his senior thesis accepted by, and published in, the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics, the journal of the National Political Science Honors Society.
He also served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for Gallagher’s Introduction to Comparative Politics course, only this time as a TA he took on grading and teaching duties, and gave a three-hour lecture on Egypt.
“Professor Gallagher treated me like a graduate student, splitting the grading evenly and supporting me when I needed,” says Ghaly. “That experience took the cake as a formative experience for me in college.”
This spring Ghaly was accepted to law school at the University of California, Berkeley, which he’ll attend in the fall, but not before receiving four more awards: the Faculty of Arts & Sciences–Newark Dean’s Award, given to one or more outstanding seniors for academic excellence; the Benjamin M. Weissman Writing Award, for the best essay among graduating political science majors; the Heinz Seelback Award, for the highest Political Science GPA among seniors; and the Joel Girgus Memorial Award, to the graduating seniors in Psychology with the highest cumulative GPAs.
Ghaly, who graduates this week with a dual major in Political Science and Psychology, and a minor in Economics, has treasured his time on campus and looks forward to his next chapter.
“I will absolutely miss RU-N. I love the institution and our campus and my professors. My college experience was amazing. I stuffed so much in my last two years,” says Ghaly. “And I’m excited to start the next phase and see what law school has to offer—all the opportunities and issues that await me.”