Abdul Hafiz, SSH’15—the global citizen, campus leader, and Torch Scholar—will graduate on Friday, becoming the first member of his family to earn a college degree. Here, Hafiz reflects on his past five years at Northeastern and looks ahead to the future, bright with law school and political aspirations.
You’re a first-generation college student from Staten Island, New York, the son of parents from Ghana. What will it mean to you to be the first member of your family to graduate from college?
Growing up, I always wanted to go to college. My parents, too, wanted me to go, but they didn’t have the formal education to help me beyond saying, ‘This is something you’re going to do.’ My mom and dad will be in attendance on Friday, seeing me graduate at the TD Garden. It will definitely be a meaningful experience for them, both of whom have supported me in every way they could. They’ve instilled values in me that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life, and for me to have them there to see what I’ve accomplished along this journey will be an emotional moment. There might even be tears.
I want to enroll in law school. I’ll be taking this year to focus on studying for the Law School Admission Test and looking for work in order to gain even more experience to add to my resumé. My particular interests lie in corporate law and cyber law. There’s not a lot of public policy related to cybersecurity—the ever-changing nature of the field clouds the rules and regulations—so I’d like to be a pioneer in this space.
I might want to try working in politics down the road but I haven’t yet come to a definitive decision. Politics is a volatile and cutthroat profession, yet I’ve worked with politicians before and it’s an area that I could see myself in. We’ll see in 10 years from now how it turns out.
Your leadership experience runs deep, from peer tutor and orientation leader to undergraduate director for the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and vice president of Northeastern’s National Pan-Hellenic Council. How have these experiences shaped your leadership values?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is this: No matter what, you can’t do everything by yourself. As a leader, you have to be a motivator and a voice of reason. You can’t shy away from moments of controversy, and if you mess up, you have to admit that you were wrong, you have to fall on the sword.
Being a leader is something I’ll continue to be, something that’s innate within my nature. I was president of the Susan E. Wagner High School, in New York City, where I was involved in the mock trial team. I, too, was a leader at Northeastern, a role that I don’t foresee myself ever relinquishing.
What role did the Torch Scholars Program play in your success at Northeastern?
My being selected as a Torch Scholar more than five years ago was one of the most memorable moments of life, something that I will forever cherish. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the program; I certainly wouldn’t be here at Northeastern, one of the nation’s top-ranked universities. In my time on campus, I have been fortunate to be recognized for my work in many ways—from being selected for the “Huntington 100” to being named the university’s Fraternity Sorority Life Outstanding Man of the Year—but none of that would have been possible without being a Torch Scholar. Without that distinction, nothing would have been possible.
You completed two Dialogue of Civilizations programs, one to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the other to Geneva, Switzerland. How did these international experiences prepare you for the next step in your academic journey?
Working or studying abroad is a valuable piece of a Northeastern education. To be an educated 21st-century citizen you need to have international experience. We live in a global marketplace, where business and corporations require their employees to have a strong understanding of the world beyond the American value system. Having that knowledge gives you a competitive edge, whether you’re entering the job market or pursuing graduate education. My Dialogue to Geneva, which focused on diplomacy and disarmament and which required me to decipher legal jargon and the language of different United Nations treaties, will be a valuable experience to draw upon as I begin my law school applications and interviews.