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Service, Support, and Study
Nawal Shakil Mirza finds a home in the UMD honors program
Stray, lost and abandoned puppies are heard barking throughout the Animal Allies Humane Society building. Cats and kittens nestle together, peering around corners at visitors. Nawal Mirza has visited these animals often, offering all the love, care, and comfort she can.
“I never thought I’d be where I am now,” says Nawal. “I’ve seen so many new places since I was accepted into the Honors Program.” One week she takes a furry friend for a walk; the next week she walks along roadsides in the Adopt a Highway program. She has joined fellow honors students to serve meals in a soup kitchen and was part of a big effort to move people who are homeless into the Steve O'Neill Apartments. She welcomes all opportunities as she fulfills her 45-hour honors community/civic engagement commitment.
Nawal is used to volunteering. Back home in Pakistan she did a lot of it. She taught English to underprivileged children. In her high school, she organized volunteer events including a tree planting effort, a food drive, and helped set up several free medical clinics. She also made weekly school visits to interact with children with special needs.
Throughout Nawal's entire time in high school, she followed the UMD Honors Program. Nawal's sister, Madiha, who was an honors student before her, sent photos, videos, and emails about life in Minnesota. By the time Nawal arrived at Welcome Week she was already part of the program.
The Honors Program
Nawal, an accounting and financial markets major, has jumped into the Honors Program with both feet. “I found out that honors students make up about two percent of the campus,” Nawal says. “I thought it would be a really good way to meet people who have more of an academic focus.”
The program is more than just academic rigor, it helps gather honors students to get to know each other better. “Being part of a group has made the transition from my home country to Minnesota easier," she says.
The diversity is one of the parts Nawal likes best. "There are people from different academic disciplines, different countries, and different backgrounds." Something amazing happens when all kinds of people with all kinds of interests get together. "We are more creative. We come up with innovative and unique answers."
For instance, all honors students work on a capstone project. Nawal's topic, Gender and White Collar Crime, is adding to the body of knowledge about the justice system. She is looking at the differences in sentencing between men and women for the same crime.
In addition to a wide array of opportunities, the Honors Program has recently launched an online version of their journal, Aisthesis. The Aisthesis journal is an honors interdisciplinary journal exclusively for honors students.
Since Nawal is involved in the honors advanced writing course, she is a part of the writing team for this year’s journal. The journal is made up of research-based work as well as creative work from honors students nationwide.
"We are the editorial board,” Nawal says, “students can submit anything: a musical composition, a short video compilation, an original research paper, anything.” The journal has received 120 submissions last year from over 40 Honors Programs across 23 states. Thirty submissions have already been received for the 2018 online Aisthesis journal.
The Aisthesis project is rewarding and it has brought the entire honors group together. "We've become a close-knit family," she says.
Photo above: (from left) Honors students Rachel Gydesen, Nawal Mirza, Katie Oltz, Swita Li, Ashley Murr, Megan Effinger, Bebi Khan, Lizzy Crosby, Maria Onnen, William Effinger, Caleb Derosier, Aaron Ashley, Matthew Hockert, Jackson Nash, Max Anderson, Aaron Paulson, and Marshal Quast.