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Student Spotlight: Alissa Hakim (she, her, hers)

June 24, 2022 - Jesús Hernandez and Beth Brauer

Name: Alissa Hakim ('24) (she, her, hers) 

Alissa Hakim

Hometown: Dearborn Heights, MI 

Major(s): Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy (PTCD); Arts and Humanities 

What extracurricular activities (education abroad, internship/field experience/RSOs) have you participated in? 

I have done two education abroad programs — one with each of my majors. For RCAH, I went to Costa Rica to work with a local community in the Monteverde region to design a community-conscious, sustainable look out point. In Italy, I spent time taking two classes for PTCD whilst exploring the country.

Since my freshman year, I have held a URA position with a group to support undergraduate women of color called the RCAH Sister Circle. Last summer, I had an internship with a local law firm and worked with the immigration department to assist in cases for other member of the Arab community. This upcoming year, I will represent RCAH in ASMSU for my second year, research with the Juvenile Risk Assessment Team and continue working with the Advancing Racial Equity and Advocacy program with the three residential colleges. 

What made you choose JMC? What have you liked best about your residential college experience so far? 

When I first came to MSU, I had too many different pathways I could have gone down. I was unsure which one of my passions I wanted to follow. I initially majored in political science before changing to arts and humanities. Still, I did not feel as fulfilled as I wanted to because my love for political theory sat on the backburner. I decided to join JMC to explore this interest of mine and have loved it ever since. Like any college, it has its faults, but its merits far outweigh them. I have met some of my best friends through James Madison and doors that were previously shut for me opened up. I was able to do research, find internships, make connections with faculty and students alike, and learn more about myself in the process. As much as I value the education itself, these other things make JMC distinct for me as it has provided me with a more well-rounded experience.  

What has been your best memory as a James Madison College Student? 

There are so many memories I have in JMC ranging from my trip abroad to post-class lunch in the dining hall, but my favorite memory as a JMC student would definitely be from the support I have had from professors during challenging times. Every James Madison professor I have learned with has consistently been understanding, patient and kind in our interactions. I have had my ups and downs throughout my college career but being treated as a person above being treated as a student has had the biggest impact on me.  

What about your PTCD courses do you enjoy most?  

I have enjoyed all my PTCD classes so far, but I have enjoyed MC272 and MC370 the most. I enrolled in these two classes this past summer for my education abroad in Italy, so it has been full of excursions and classwork relevant to the area where we stayed. Reading theory in the places it is most relevant to is an experience honestly like no other. I have been able to immerse myself more in these classes since I have a lighter schedule. It makes it a lot easier to remain engaged in the text, on top of the initial interest. Beyond that, it is little things that make these courses my favorite so far. Reading about the Tiber River in Livy’s history of Rome and crossing it on my way to class or reading about my village in Lebanon in Machiavelli’s discourses — that makes these classes different.  

How do you anticipate the skills and information you are learning will transfer to other areas of your life (beyond professional goals)? 

My critical thinking skills have been the strongest they have ever been thanks to PTCD, and I anticipate I will be able to transfer this into every area of my life. With theory, the whole point is to make you question what you are reading, question the author and decipher what is meant by what is written. I am able to take information, make connections, read between the lines and think of the theory in both historical and contemporary ways to find the purpose of a text and how that purpose is fulfilled. This concept can be applied to every aspect of my life, especially during my formative years in university where I am still finding out who I really am.  

Who or what has been a great source of support or inspired you since you started college? 

My greatest source of support and greatest inspiration since I started college has always been my mom. Immigrating to America was hard on all of us, but especially my mother as she had no experience here. She came with no knowledge of the English language, no high school degree and no college experience. Since I was young, she instilled in my siblings and me the importance of education because she dreamed of a good life for us. Later in life, my mom got her GED and is now enrolled in college while working. She is the definition of girl-boss, and I can only dream of being as strong as her.