Third year undergraduate student Samia Alkam credits her own journey as a student, both in Palestine and the U.S., for sparking her passion for education and advocacy. As a double major in education and political science at UCR, she’s gaining the knowledge and experiences to achieve her dream of making education a reality for everyone. Alkam currently serves as a GSOE undergraduate ambassador and on the Middle Eastern Student Assembly.
What made you want to pursue a degree in education? I had a less-than-traditional educational journey. I lived in Palestine and attended a school that struggled to provide a safe and enriching environment for their students. When I moved back to the U.S., I realized it was my duty to use my agency and passion for social justice to ensure every student has equitable access to education.
I also attended an independent-style charter school where many of the students were pushed out of the traditional public school system. Although these students were lucky enough to seek out alternative schooling options, many other students don’t have this opportunity and are deprived of their right to get an education. Having these experiences in my K-12 experience showed me that our public schooling system needs to be reassessed. Enrolling in the Community Leadership, Policy, and Social Justice track of the major has given me the proper knowledge of policies affecting marginalized students, and has empowered me to tackle these issues through a framework of social justice.
What would you like to do after graduation? I plan to uplift those who have been overlooked by our current education system and work on creating policies that will support marginalized students. No student should have a lower quality education on the basis of their race, religion, gender, or socioeconomic status. After graduation, I hope to attend law school and become a lawyer in the field of Education Law. Education is a basic human right and is often seen as a luxury to those who have less privilege. This is something I would like to change.
What inspires you about being a student at UCR, and what advice do you have for other students? UC Riverside is a welcoming and diverse environment where I believe I can flourish as someone who is passionate about social justice and advocacy. Since the undergraduate major is relatively new, I have been able to create lasting relationships with my professors and with the other students in the program. The advice I would give to other students is to incorporate their own background and personal experiences into their own work. Thinking about my own background as a Palestinian and as a Muslim in my classes has allowed me to find passion and purpose in my work knowing the knowledge I am gaining can be applied to serve my community.
Tell us about some of the projects have you been taking on as a student. The staff and faculty within the GSOE have encouraged me to reach for every opportunity that comes my way. I am currently a campus tour guide, where I take prospective and admitted students on a tour of the university while exposing them to all the resources, opportunities, and programs UCR has to offer. I am also an ambassador for the Graduate School of Education and, through my role, I have been able to help create programming and events for current undergraduate students such as a midterms de-stressing social and an end of the year showcase of all the amazing work GSOE students have conducted in the past year!
What has been the most interesting class you’ve taken so far? The most interesting class I have taken so far is Education 042: Education for Critical Consciousness with Dr. Louie Rodriguez. This class was so impactful to me because Dr. Rodriguez argued that a quality education requires a teacher to be vulnerable, hear from students, and make learning a holistic experience- and his classroom was a reflection of those beliefs. I was not only able to discuss my own experience as a someone who was educated in low-income, high-minority schools, but I was also able to hear from other students and learn the needs of the communities they are coming from in order to expand my worldview and become an effective educator.