Recent Rutgers University-Newark graduate Nuralhoda Elsaid has been nothing if not thoughtful about her career path
In 2019, while she was attending high school in Union City, NJ, she returned to her home country of Sudan as the country’s civilian uprising was raging, a series of events that ultimately toppled President Omar al-Bashir after 30 years in power. While there, Elsaid witnessed how educational instruction ground to a halt, which left her cousins there in limbo, and how throughout the revolt protests, boycotts and Twitter threads were facilitated by Sudanese youth.
As a high-school senior the following year, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Elsaid received remote instruction to graduate high school on schedule, while her Sudanese cousins continued without schooling for more than a year.
As a result, Elsaid became interested in how education reform, instruction and advocacy occurred abroad, but in order to follow that international path, she first looked closer to home, seeking to understand the U.S. educational system and hone her skills as a teacher.
“I wanted to develop my own educational pedagogy and come to my own conclusions on the most effective ways to advocate for students in the U.S., then reframe those solutions to fit places abroad where education is not easily accessible,” said Elsaid. “And by understanding other nations, their priorities, way of life, and history, I’d be able to see how educational institutions function abroad.”
Not surprisingly, at RU-N Elsaid pursued a double-major in English and Secondary Urban Education with a minor in International Affairs and graduated earlier this month. And she did so in just three years, after having enrolled in U.S. Department of Education’s Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) program during high school, which enabled her to earn college credits and arrive at Rutgers with the majority of her core requirements completed.
The friendships that I made at RU-N will last a lifetime, because the people that I met are so passionate and delicate with their craft and interests.
That gave Elsaid time to do a double-major and minor while serving in multiple capacities during her undergraduate years at RU-N, including a stint as Student Governing Association President, where she created a Basic Needs Task Force to tackle food and shelter insecurity issue on campus; organized multiple student rallies to increase voter registration; and increased library hours and resources for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors and for career development. Elsaid also served in SGA as an Academic Senator for the School of Arts and Sciences–Newark (SASN), where she advocated for increased funding for the college, for a Pass/Fail option for students to relieve academic stress during Covid-19, and for a Covid-19 Emergency fund.
In addition, Elsaid also was a member of the RU-N Association of International Relations, the Muslim Student Association and the Black Organization of Students, was President of Kappa Delta Pi, and was a consistent Dean’s List recipient while winning three coveted honors: the Emerging Leadership Award for her work as an Academic Senator for SASN (Spring '22), the Commitment to Social Action Award for her work as SGA President (Spring '23), and the Louis R. Zocca NCAS English Award, the top prize for English majors (Spring '23).
Off-campus, Elsaid honed her teaching skills as a Student Teacher at Science Park High School in Newark, an English and Arabic Tutor at Rising Star Academy in Union City, NJ, a Preschool II Teacher at The Learning Experience in North Bergen, NJ, and an English Teaching Aid at a school in Sudan. She also served as a Youth Development Intern at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in South Plainfield, NJ, and put in time as a Civics Leader at the NAACP in Newark.
That’s an awful lot of accomplishments for a student over four years, let alone three.
Elsaid credits Dean Erica Williams, Assistant Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Students, and Professor Lynette Mawhinney, Chair of the Department of Urban Education, with helping her navigate the challenges of student leadership and teaching.
“Dean Williams was always there with guidance and advice, and believed in me. Dr. Mawhinney saw something in me that I didn't see in myself and continued to water my passions, pushing me further than I ever imagined was possible,” said Elsaid. “I don't think I will ever be able to truly thank both Dean Williams and Dr. Mawhinney, but I know that I have the ability to truly chase my dreams and create an impact in this world because of them.”
In the fall Elsaid will begin a master's degree program in International Educational Development at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she'll research how significant catastrophes similar to civilian uprisings, wars, famines, and a global pandemics can alter entire educational systems in countries where education is not easily accessible. Long term, she envisions working with organizations such as UNICEF to ensure greater access to education in countries that have been through life-altering situations and to ensure that school curriculums are reevaluated to allow for more student-centered objectives.
In the meantime, Elsaid is grateful for her family and the friends she made at RU-N as she embarks on her next steps.
“The friendships that I made at RU-N will last a lifetime, because the people that I met are so passionate and delicate with their craft and interests,” said Elsaid. “The staff, faculty and professors are unlike any other; they're dedicated to the craft of teaching and ensure that students take advantage of all the resources here to be the best possible versions of themselves. I truly am grateful for my time at RU-N.”