Like all of her Class of 2022 classmates, Samia Saleem’s stay at Virginia Commonwealth University has been disrupted by the pandemic. “I was in second grade when the pandemic hit and we went home,” she said. “And I was senior when we came back.”
The pandemic has forced Saleem and his classmates to adapt and persevere in pursuit of their academic and professional goals.
On Saturday, Saleem will deliver VCU’s early spring student speech. She plans to celebrate her classmates’ resilience and encourage them to keep that mindset as they embark on their post-graduation journey.
Saleem, a psychology major and chemistry minor in the College of Humanities and Sciences on a pre-medical track, was selected as a rookie student speaker after submitting a video in which she describes how her experience at VCU made a difference in her life.
“Graduation from college is a scary time for many of us,” she said. “So I want to tell everyone – and myself – to keep pushing. Don’t give up on your dreams and goals, whatever they may be. And even if it sounds scary and you think you’re going to fail, remember that every day is a new day and an opportunity to try again.
Saleem immigrated to the United States from Saudi Arabia with his family in 2013 – including his twin brother Faizan, an information systems specialist at the School of Business who is also graduating on Saturday. His family moved to Richmond, where Saleem attended middle school and high school before attending VCU.
VCU, she said, provided her with opportunities to learn and impact the community. She has held leadership positions in a number of student organizations, including Relay for Life at VCU, which raises funds for the American Cancer Society; Neo Environmental Organization, which promotes environmentally friendly practices in Richmond; and MEDLIFE at VCU, which helps communities have equal access to health care through mobile medical and dental clinics.
Saleem has also been an active volunteer throughout her time at VCU. She has volunteered with United to Heal at VCU, a student-run nonprofit that seeks to address health inequities around the world. She mentored students learning Arabic at the Islamic Center of Virginia. And she has helped support Alzheimer’s and dementia patients as a volunteer at a local nursing home.
“When I give back to the community, it makes me really happy,” she said. “Every time I volunteer, I feel a sense of satisfaction and peace. Like, ‘I did something good today.’ This happiness is what drives me to keep doing it.
Looking back on her time at VCU, Saleem said she felt extremely grateful, humbled and privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from very accomplished and helpful teachers. Her courses in the Department of Psychology, notably one on interpersonal relationships and another on child psychopathology, helped her to see the world differently.
After graduation, Saleem looks forward to attending a service trip to Ecuador, where she will assist doctors in a mobile clinic and contribute to other projects that support community health and wellbeing. . She also hopes to do research, with a particular interest in the areas of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, having worked with this patient population as a volunteer while pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor.
“Medicine has always aroused my interest and thanks to volunteering, I have learned that it gives me immense happiness to be of service to people. Now I also want to help them with my skills and knowledge.
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