As the eighth oldest institution for higher learning in the United States, Rutgers is celebrating its 250th anniversary on November 10, 2016. To celebrate this monumental milestone, I Am Rutgers will be featuring Rutgers’ most involved and accomplished students in a new series, “250 for 250.” This year-long series will serve as a reflection of Rutgers’ diverse student body and status as a premier national research university.
With the 2016 presidential election right around the corner, politics remains at the forefront of national debate and controversy. For graduating senior Atif Ahmad, political discourse has always been a subject of interest, but it wasn’t until coming to Rutgers that this interest turned into a passion. Atif will graduate this May with a degree in political science and a minor in economics. While this career path wasn’t what he envisioned himself doing upon entering college, Rutgers’ wide range of courses and extracurricular opportunities helped him uncover his passion for politics:
I picked political science because I really like policy — seeing how laws are formed, seeing what impact they have. Before I came to Rutgers, I was set on going to law school and using my time here to work towards achieving a good LSAT score. It wasn’t until I got here, took courses in different academic areas, and become involved in the International Relations Club, though, that I realized maybe law school wasn’t the best fit — or that I should at the very least explore my other options.”
Joining the International Relations Club helped Atif realize his passion for policy and desire to build a career pertaining to the development and writing of laws. Atif has remained highly involved in this organization ever since the second semester of his freshman year and rose to the position of treasurer as a sophomore. Learning how to construct an organizational budget placed a lot of responsibility in his hands and taught Atif many invaluable organizational skills. Perhaps the most important lesson Atif learned from the position, however, is how to manage time effectively; while he hasn’t necessarily mastered time management, college has definitely helped him learn how to balance different responsibilities and prepare him for a busy career in politics:
As a senior now, when I look back at who I was as a freshman — I wasn’t doing that great in my classes, nor was I very involved in the first semester — I’ve definitely come a long way. I really worked towards self-improvement. It was difficult with so many distractions — peer pressure, social media, etc.–, but I worked towards finding balance in life. I wouldn’t say I’ve found that balance per say, but I’m definitely much better at balancing all of my responsibilities than I was 4 years ago.”
Atif’s life has become increasingly busy since his freshman year, forcing him to become even better at time management. He interned this past summer at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC. The Wilson Center is a think tank that develops policy — it identifies problems and comes with solutions. Working at the Wilson Center exposed Atif to major political events and allowed him to hear from numerous reputable political figures such as Ernest Moniz, Energy Secretary, and Ed Royce, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman. Atif is currently interning with AARP, which is allowing Atif to gain even more experience pertaining to public policy and develop a better idea of what a career in policy would look like post graduation.
Atif was also a FIGS instructor during his senior year for the class Law and Leadership. He really enjoyed the experience and enjoyed helping first-year students narrow their career goals just as he did during his first year at Rutgers.
Being a mentor is something that I am really passionate about. I feel like I have found my own balance between academics, extracurriculars, and career goals, so I want to help others find theirs.”
Another lesson Atif learned while at Rutgers that he passed onto his FIGS group is the importance of being genuine, humble, and respectful. Preparing for a career in political science, Atif has come to realize that authentic, trustworthy politicians can be hard to find, but those who show compassion to others and keep their word are best off in the long run.
Having grown up in Bangladesh, Atif wasn’t sure what to expect when he moved to America at the age of 19 for college. While Rutgers wasn’t quite what he envisioned, he has learned many invaluable lessons that have prepared him for life post-graduation:
Coming to Rutgers enabled me to grow as a person. When I came here I was essentially on my own since my immediate family stayed in Bangladesh. Rutgers is a friendly environment, but it also pushes you to do and be better. You have to stake yourself out in a way because there are so many students here, you have to be able to be independent and go after the things that you want. No one hands you things on a silver platter at Rutgers, but the same goes for life in general. It’s inspiring to see those who are ambitious succeed and since Rutgers has such a diverse selection of majors, it’s amazing to see success from all different viewpoints in all different academic disciplines. You can learn just as much from those who are similar to you as you can from those who are different.”
Atif is currently looking for work in Washington for a position post graduation, possibly in a think tank, at a congressman’s office, or a position writing policy. In the future, Atif hopes to go to graduate school to further his education and advance in politics. While politics is a competitive field, we are confident that Atif’s genuine, friendly, and ambitious personality will go a long way.