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#UofTGrad17: Muhanad Ali

Muhanad Ali plans to have a career in public health working towards social justice and racial health equity. (Photo by Ken Jones)

Where you begin is not necessarily where you end. Muhanad Ali started undergraduate studies following a Psychology major, but is graduating with a BSc in Population Health Sciences and Critical International Development Studies, and a minor in Anthropology.

With his shift in focus he has been able to see the interdisciplinary nature of science and social justice.

“I now appreciate multiple facets of newly emerging health issues such as social and structural determinants of health, intersects of health and social justice, data analysis and public and global policy,” Ali says.

After taking some time away from school to figure out what he wanted to do next, he came back to help create UTSC’s first Undergraduate Research Publication Workshop.

“It provided me with the opportunity to share my experiences in publishing in hopes of assisting students in developing new research skills,” he said.

Where did you go to high school?

Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute in Scarborough.

Why did you come to U of T Scarborough?

I like the tight-net community it represents, the individuals that make up that community and most importantly, the all-around vibe it brings out.

Why did you choose your program?

I actually started off in Psychology. But after experiencing significant hardships in the early years of undergrad, I quickly found out that this program was not the right fit for me. I took time to recover mentally and physically, and sought guidance from supportive faculty and trusted academic advisors. I discovered my passion for public health and development – complementary fields of study and practice that fit with my lived experience. Once I pursued these interests, I excelled in my courses.

What was your favourite class? Why?

My favourite course of all my undergrad courses had to be HLTC02H3 (Women and Health: Past and Present) with Suzanne Sicchia. The course draws on a number of critical social theory including one framework of analysis that I came to love, intersectionality, that explores issues pertaining to women’s health. More importantly, I appreciate how challenging it was because I developed new skills (critical thinking, writing and research skills) that help advance my curiosity as a young scholar. In fact, my research paper for this class was accepted and later published at the University of Toronto Medical Journal and I was a top 24 finalist at UTSC’s Undergraduate Research Competition in 2016. As she witnessed my academic achievements and growth, Dr. Sicchia selected me to serve as HLTC02 Classroom Facilitator, where I was able help design engaging course content, stimulate group discussions, fostered critical thinking, and assisted students in a more thorough understanding of complex concepts.   

Quick tip for new first years?

One day, I came across a segment of a speech presented by one of my favorite public intellectuals, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, in which he speaks about the importance of hope and patience. He states, “We must [all] be Agents of Hope. Agents of Hope can be defined using 10 simple words – I do not have to be what I once was”. In that powerful statement, Dr. Hill suggests that we perceive hope not as blind optimism, but with spiritual, intellectual and mental maturity. He asks us to envision a student with a poor GPA. In spite of the fact that this hypothetical student’s GPA may not reach a level with which they are satisfied by the time they graduate from their academic institution, their mindset will have developed and evolved. In acknowledging and understanding their strengths, their passions, areas where they would like to improve, in addition to employing patience, and seeking wise counsel from family, friends and trusted advisors, this student will evidently not be where they once were. This deeply resonated with me because I was once that disheartened student. If I not made the choice to believe that “I do not have to be what I once was,” the outcome of my undergraduate experience would have been very different. I honed in on this radical understanding of hope, and as such I was able to further my academic career, my aspirations, as well as increase the confidence I have in my abilities.

What is a “must-do” on campus – what should every student do before graduating?

Most definitely get involved on campus. There are many organizations on campus that do extraordinary things and hopefully you will find one that not only speaks to your interests and passion but also brings out an experience worth telling/sharing about. My involvement around campus has shaped my individual perspectives of community and the importance to work willingly for the betterment of others.

What was your most rewarding accomplishment during your time here?

The most rewarding accomplishment I had was help create UTSC’s first Undergraduate Research Publication Workshop. With the help of Dr. Stevenson (Writing Centre) and Professor Kathy Liddle (Sociology), the workshop aims to offer the necessary resources to assist students identify publication venues and navigating the peer-review process. Furthermore, it provided me with the opportunity to share my experiences in publishing to assist students in developing new research skills. Dr. Stevenson decided to expand this workshop into an online resource to be included in the Writing Centre’s online seminars, providing modest but crucial assistance to aspiring student scholars. Furthermore, we plan to use the materials developed from this experience to enable the workshop to be held annually, to which I plan to attend as a co-presenter.

What’s next?

Alhamdulilah, I have received a couple Masters offers including Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, McMasters and Brighton and Sussex Medical School. However, I will be attending York University this fall doing a Masters in Health Policy and Equity with a $10,000 fellowship!

If we call you up in five years, where do you think we will find you?

I hope to be a future leader in public health as a field of research and practice in the Somali-Canadian community.

 

To read about more of the class of 2017 graduates click here

 




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