Senior Maya Abaza, who graduated this week from RU-N with a degree in Biology and a minor in Social Justice as part of the Honors Living & Learning Community (HLLC), knows a thing or two about leadership and taking center stage.
As a fifth-thru-seventh-grader back in her native Syria, Abaza co-hosted a national kids TV show focusing on topical issues like climate change and emergency medical care during the Syrian civil war, interviewing people on the street, in hospitals and on-set about pressing matters of the day. (Her dad is an orthopedic surgeon.)
At age 12, her family fled the civil war and emigrated to the U.S, settling in Haledon, NJ, where her family continued to nurture her passion for storytelling and visual arts. Abaza made the National Honor Society and graduated near the top of her class at Manchester Regional High School in Haledon, but due to financial constraints she attended Passaic County Community College, where she earned an associate’s degree in Biology in 2020, at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, while also serving as president of the Student Government Association.
She arrived at RU-N in fall 2020 and immediately fell in love with HLLC as part of the Price Humanities cohort.
“I’ve crossed paths with brilliant students and amazing individuals whom I have grown to call my chosen, or second, family,” said Abaza. “The relationships I have developed at HLLC will be lifelong.”
At RU-N, Abaza threw herself not only into her studies but into every opportunity she could. She participated in the national BOLD Women’s Leadership Network, which cultivates leadership skills and facilitates opportunities for women’s career development and networking through scholarship funding from the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation. She was also an ambassador for the Faith in the Vaccine Project, promoting the health and safety of Covid-19 vaccines to Newark residents and combating misinformation. And Abaza worked on an eight-week research project with Dr. Jennifer Bucalo, Director of Partnerships and Engagement for the Academic Foundations Center, looking at health disparities in Mamelondi, South Africa and helping to develop a curriculum for a virtual course to be taught collectively by RU-N's School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA), the University of Pretoria-Mamelodi, and the University of Western Cape.
I’ve crossed paths with brilliant students and amazing individuals whom I have grown to call my chosen, or second, family.
In addition, Abaza has been a manager for RU-N's Responsible Raider Program, promoting Covid-19 health and safety, and addressing student concerns across campus during the pandemic. She has been a North Eastern Regional Alliance (NERA) scholar, participating in a three-year Med Prep summer program that helps future medical students develop research and other relevant skills, and enables them to attend National Institutes of Health (NIH) workshops. And she has worked as an ER scribe for Scribe America, documenting medical and family histories, procedures and other vital information for patients at area hospitals. During this time, Abaza also became CPR-certified.
In July, Abaza will be starting a yearlong post-graduation fellowship with BOLD, likely working in a clinical-decision support role with NJ-based medical technology and device company Striker. Meantime, she’s deciding on whether to apply to medical school or master’s programs in Public Health. Either way, she sees herself following in the footsteps of her father and working in the medical field, making a difference in people’s lives, as her support system at RU-N did for her.
“All of the deans at the HLLC are truly committed to investing time and resources into their students. They carefully listen to each of our stories, and recognize the differences that make us unique individuals,” said Abaza. “Prior to arriving at the HLLC, I wanted to make a difference in the world and to be an agent of change, but I had no clear vision on how to do so. HLLC honed this passion for me, and taught me how change is made, and most importantly that it starts within.”