Why did you decide to attend college in the United States? And why did you choose UNI?
I chose United States because of the advancement in the field of special education. In Pakistan, students with disabilities are generally not included in the general education schools. This was one of the motivated reasons to come to US, and explore ways through which I can best serve my future students with disabilities and advocate the inclusive practices once I go back to Pakistan. The reason I chose UNI was the School of Education and the tremendous faculty it has. As a matter of fact, I was a transfer student from another state university in Michigan to UNI. I visited UNI and personally met with the HOD of my department, Dr. Bill Callahan, when I applied for the program.
What do you like the most about UNI?
I love how UNI opened up my mind in the field of research. Through the rigorous coursework in research, I have learnt multiple methods for conducting research in the field of education. Also, I love the friends I have made here because I know there is going to be an everlasting bond among us.
What have you done to help make UNI your home away from home?
For the first year of my degree program I stayed at Waterloo with my parents, who are immigrants to US. In fall 2016, I moved to an on-campus apartment, which helped me develop long term relationships with international students. In addition to making friends from different countries, I have also made professional contacts while staying at UNI. I’m conducting research in one of the elementary schools for my Master’s project, which has allowed me to grow tremendously and make connections within my field. The opportunity has helped me to develop good relationships with department faculty, as I’m also working as a Research Assistant on one of the projects UNI is conducting in the school district. I think both of these professional and nonprofessional relationships have helped me feel more at home while staying away from home.
How did you determine your major i.e. did you take a class, consult with UNI programs, inspired by someone or something?
I was working at the child development center at a university before I came to US. One of the basic reasons why I decided to further my studies in US was the lack of inclusive practices in the field of education in Pakistan. I strongly believe in inclusion, which is to include students with disabilities in the general education classroom by providing them support and services according to their individual needs. This is not practiced in my home country, which is why I hope to make a change by advocating the knowledge I gain here.
Tell us about any great classes or professors that have helped, inspired or challenged you with determining your career path.
My advisor Dr. Amy Petersen has been a great source of inspiration throughout the degree. One of the most inspiring examples is the time when I worked on my research topic last semester. As I had no firsthand experience in US school systems, she encouraged me to join her in visiting the schools. Coming back from one of the elementary schools, I discussed my fascination with the involvement of paraprofessionals. That was the turning point. I decided to dig deep into the roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals in making school environments more inclusive for students with disabilities. As one of my goals is to advocate for inclusion in Pakistan once I go back, the field experience has helped me gain insight to the inclusive system in US schools. If Dr. Petersen was not there to encourage me, I would not have achieved as much as I have. As a matter of fact, she also helped me to identify conferences at which to present my article, and fortunately enough my paper has been accepted for the “2016 Second City Disability Studies in Education Annual Conference”.