My time at Ithaca, and particularly my time spent within the politics department, has shaped the type of person I have become immensely. Asma has been a large part of that and she is someone who spent the energy, the time, and the care to help me find my voice and move me into the trajectory that I have taken.
One of my most cherished possessions are what I call “The Ithaca Papers”. These are a select few papers I wrote in college that have travelled with me throughout my post college life and they are reminders to me of where I have come from to help me remember and remind me of the life I want to be living. They are like conversations with some of my most favorite mentors and they help me to feel grounded when I am facing major upheavals in my life. One of those papers is from a class I took in my senior year on the Politics of Identity, and I think this is one of the most important papers I was able to write in my time at Ithaca. The paper was eventually titled “Coming to Know and Love Myself” and in it, Asma had the graciousness to let me write about my political identity in a way that allowed me to let go of a lot of the guilt that I was holding onto as a middle class white woman. It was an important step towards the work I do now in that it allowed me to stop holding myself back from truly empathizing and loving other people because it gave me the ability to make space to love myself. If Asma had not opened up that space for me in that classroom, even when she was not completely comfortable with what I had turned in to her in the guise of academic writing, I am not sure that I would have been able to get there, and to move on towards the life and the work that I live in now.
As a second semester senior, Asma’s class on Understanding Islam helped to prepare me for two years of living and working in Jordan. When I arrived there, thanks to Asma, I already had a critical feminist foundation in a religion that I was now completely surrounded by. With that, I could move forward with love, to think critically about what I was being presented with, and to be more able to listen and to hear the women that would eventually become part of my second, chosen family. In my time in Jordan, I wrote emails home to my family and friends, and Asma was a lifeline to me when I was feeling isolated and lonely. She shared in the laughter of learning the ins and outs of the new culture I was trying to fit in to and she reminded me often that what I was doing was important and worthwhile.
For the last four years I have had the incredible opportunity to work with a majority Muslim refugee population through a special program called the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program. In this work, I have often found myself in a similar role as my mentors, including Asma. I have continued to lead with love and to not back down from a fight over equity and justice. Those are tenants that were strongly instilled in me during my time at IC.
Asma — thank you for the care that you put into your classes, the time you took with your students and the way that you were able to model for me the way that love can be a transformative tool for healing. You truly leave a legacy behind at Ithaca College and I am so grateful to have had the chance to learn from you.