Meet VALLEY’s Fall 2019 Self-Improvement Section Opener: Shifa Abuzaid

Photo by Shannon Soboslay

When someone walks by in the street, all of their accomplishments, hard times and perseverance are not what is seen. All of their stories are not thought of, their successes ignored. To a passerby, it is just another student, another human. To Shifa Abuzaid, however, each and every person is a story and an identity.

In just her second year of Penn State Law School, Abuzaid herself has a story that seems ready for the pages of a memoir. Just a sneak peek of the person she is, Abuzaid co-founded Penn State’s Muslim Legal Society with her roommate. Currently she is one of four Muslim law students at Penn State. Despite this, 60 to 70 people attend every event that the society plans. While she emphasizes the help that the Penn State community gave her with creating these numbers, it is clear within minutes of meeting Abuzaid that her personality and shine certainly had a lot to do with it.

Photo by Shannon Soboslay

Hailing from Houston, Abuzaid was originally a medical student. It was her junior year of undergraduate studies that she realized law was what she was meant to do.

“I saw what a difference it makes in people’s lives,” says Abuzaid. “I want to make sure voices are heard.”

She currently fulfills this wish through her involvement in Women’s Law Caucus and striving to change the fact that minority women are underrepresented in law.

While her accomplishments on paper are nothing short of astonishing, it is Abuzaid’s character and message that make her the embodiment of self-improvement. Although there is nothing wrong with face masks and girl’s nights, Abuzaid believes that self-improvement is so much more. To her, it is character that benefits most from self-improvement. You can make yourself feel good, but “What are you doing to make other people feel good?” asks Abuzaid.

College is a time of change for nearly everyone, and it can be a great thing. However, many messages are forced upon college students. They are told that these have to be the best four years of their life, they have to get the best internship, or that they have to have the highest GPA.

Photo by Shannon Soboslay

Abuzaid, however, redefines success. “You have to go to college to be successful, but if you help one person be better and feel better, that is success, but nobody talks about that,” says Abuzaid. She emphasizes that the values learned in youth, such as treat others how you would like to be treated, must be carried into adulthood. It is small actions that create big change.

Having experienced the assumptions made about her being a Muslim female, Abuzaid pushes her messages to the next level and encourages others to become educated and ask questions about why things are the way they are. Diversity and inclusion are a staple in Abuzaid’s life, but to her they are much more than buzz words. Companies seem to love these words, “but what is your organization doing to make these people feel included?” asks Abuzaid. This thought process trickles all the way down to sitting in class and asking these questions to professors, peers and advisers.

Before even living in the “real” world, Abuzaid has learned and taught so many life lessons. VALLEY is proud to be a vessel for Abuzaid’s messages. From Houston to State College to beyond, she is sure to do huge things.


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