Syeda (Fiana) Arbab

2017 Advocating for Social Change


What makes you a Difference Maker?

I am a Difference Maker because I am very passionate about student involvement and community engagement. I make every effort I can to inspire the people around me to making an impact, in whatever capacity possible. I see how powerful students and community members are, and how much change they could make if they found the space to flourish in. Being involved has allowed me to cross paths with such diverse human beings, who have all shaped me to become who I am today. I actively push to make an impact on as many people as I can in hopes of motivating them to making collective, transformative change.

Campus Achievements:

I am a proud Chancellor's Scholar at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. I just recently finished the Honors Program here and also received the James B Angell Scholar award for continuous academic excellence. I have also been on the Deans list for six consecutive semesters. I have published a paper in the Meeting of Minds journal in May of 2015 and presented my research at the annual Meeting of Minds conference. I was honorably mentioned at the 2014 Writing Awards for Excellence in Writing Creative Non-Fiction. Last Winter, I won a Student Leadership Award for Leadership Synergy. However, what makes me feel the most accomplished and passionate is my involvement on campus. I am currently the President of the Social Justice League, a Senator and a committee chair in Student Government, the Director of Outreach in Muslim Students' Association, Director of Communications in She's the First, Volunteer Coordinator for Food Recovery Network, a Diversity Ambassador, a council representative in the Student Philanthropy Council, and a proud member of Women in Learning and Leadership. In the past, I was an Anchor for Campus Video Network, which was a TON of fun, and the Secretary of Students for Justice in Palestine. I am also now a Talent Gateway Ambassador, a campus program under the Provost office through which I am able to help students connect with resources on campus and empower them to lead successful college careers. Being so involved has allowed me to encounter such diverse souls and make UM-Dearborn my home.

Leadership Experiences:

During my time at UM-Dearborn, I have been involved in numerous organizations and campus programs, including the Victors for Michigan Campaign, Giving Blue Day, Take Back the Night, and many others. However, in addition to my vast experience on campus, I have had the opportunity to lead in the community as well. As an Intern at Vista Maria, a non-profit institution that houses disadvantaged girls from across the state, I led efforts to reform ineffective strategies for group therapy sessions held on a daily basis. Not only did it give me a chance to get to know the girls better, but I was able to utilize what I learned in the classroom for real-life application. I was also a mentor in the Future Project--a national non-profit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged high school children in urban cities (like Detroit) gain the confidence to succeed and look forward to the future. By being involved in DPS, I was able to gain clearer understanding of the broken system and work to provide the children with hope of rising above it. I have also been involved in the Michigan Muslim Community Council, through which Muslim Youth in the Metro-Detroit area are able to be visible and have their voices heard by our representatives. I am also a leader in the Michigan Student Power Network, a grassroots network of transformative and activist organizations on college campuses across the state of Michigan. Through the MSPN, I help lead state-wide campaigns to ensure student voices are included in policies that impact all of us.

What is your Dream Career?

While I am still largely figuring life out, I have a long term life goal of either starting a transformative non-profit organization or being in a collective action-based think tank. I believe in the power of collective and purposeful thought, and would love to be a part of forming global solutions to social problems around the world. I also believe in the power of education. Perhaps I may end up becoming a researcher one day to help shape development policies, making sure they are accountable to and reflective of real social conditions. I want to go where life leads me to make transformative change.

What was your Most Defining Moment at UM-Dearborn?

My most defining moment at UM-Dearborn would have to be when I was selected/ elected to serve as the President of the Social Justice League. I have never felt more drive and passion in my life than when I was/ am creating the SJL space. Through the Social Justice League, I have found an effective avenue for transformative action and mentorship--both receiving and giving. All the networks I have created and campaigns I have been involved in have been both humbling and fulfilling. I truly feel honored to be the President of an organization that is so alive. The Social Justice League is full of fervor and solidarity, and it evolves every day. I wholeheartedly believe I may never find another space like the one I've had the opportunity to create and engage in like the Social Justice League.