Meet Zahra Fazal, Senior Residence Advisor and recent UBC graduate.

Zahra began her leadership involvement at UBC as a Jump Start Orientation leader in her early undergraduate years. For the past three years, she has worked as a Residence Advisor (RA) and Senior Residence Advisor (SRA).

The first person in her family to attend university, Zahra is from a small town in Tanzania – and if you heard her journey of how she prioritized and strategized, as a very young girl, to pursue and finance an education, you’d be awed by her remarkable sense of purpose, determination, persistence, and grit – as well as her kindness.

In addition to being an SRA throughout our COVID years, she also initiated and led GenOne, Canada’s first conference for first generation and low-income students, advocating for institutional-level changes to include and retain these students within higher education. The conference brought in two ministers of education as guests, along with students and representatives from ten other universities across Canada.

Recently graduating from UBC, she is bound for Stanford at end of August to pursue a Masters in Epidemiology and Clinical Research. Her research at Stanford will study how emerging infections can disrupt health services for equity-seeking populations such as refugees, people with albinism, and more. She competed for and has received full funding for three years from the Knight Hennessy scholarship at Stanford and is the first Tanzanian scholar in their cohort.

She finished her work as an SRA at end of April, but tells me that this summer she is completing a few research projects on COVID-19, in addition to working and training new staff at her summer job; but she is also focusing on things that she has missed out on, such as learning to drive, ride a bike, sew and swim. She reports excitement balanced with a normal dose of nervousness about tackling these life skills.

Zahra’s future is bright; I know she will continue to make her mark! We’re fortunate to have had her on staff and in residence during her time at UBC. She is another example of the many bright and motivated young people we care for, support and employ during their early years – to help prepare them to intelligently and thoughtfully address the complex challenges facing our local and global communities. We aspire to make a difference for them, so they can make a difference for more.

Contributed by Janice Robinson
Director, Residence Life and Administration