Nafin Elias, who graduated in May with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature and minors in psychology and sociology, cum laude, has been named the 2020 “Outstanding Senior” by the William Paterson University Alumni Association.
The award, presented annually since 1962, is the highest honor bestowed by the Alumni Association. The recipient is selected by the Association's Executive Council based on strong involvement in extracurricular activities, demonstrated leadership ability, service to the University, and high academic standing.
“I am so honored to receive this award,” says Elias, who is currently enrolled in the University’s master’s degree program in clinical and counseling psychology. “I wasn’t always the best student, and I worked hard to finish my degree on a strong note. This award really means the world to me and my family.”
Joan Holmes, an adjunct professor of psychology, had Elias in several of her classes and nominated her for the award. “The intensity of Nafin’s academic achievement and employment history balanced by her accelerated participation in extracurricular activities and her community service record clearly indicates (her) remarkable personal growth and success as well as her sense of commitment and confidence,” she says.
As an undergraduate, Elias served as a student co-researcher in the Social Cognition Research Lab in the Psychology Department, where she participated in research on gender and perceptions of ambition. She also served as a student mentor for the Psychology Department, volunteering her time to provide study tips and strategies for students enrolled in the Psychology of Women course.
“I know her to be one of the best students I’ve have ever had in my 25 years of teaching and mentoring experience,” says Elizabeth Haines, professor of psychology and director of the Social Cognition Research Lab, who also recommended Elias for the award. Haines, who selects a few undergraduates to participate in her lab each semester, adds, “I could not have asked for a better contributor, collaborator, and leader in our group than Nafin…I believe (her) to be among the brightest and best at William Paterson.”
As part of her graduate studies, Elias is interested in joining a project under the direction of professors Pei-Wen Winnie Ma and Aileen Torres through which the professors and student volunteers facilitate group therapy sessions for newly immigrated middle school and high school students in Paterson. Elias, who immigrated from Syria with her parents and two siblings nearly 20 years ago, says she understands the issues these students might face. “As someone who speaks Arabic, I am looking forward to using those skills to assist refugees and immigrants from Syria, Jordan and other countries and hope to continue working with these populations in the future.
A Dean’s List student for six consecutive semesters, Elias was invited to join Psi Chi, the honor society in psychology, and was inducted as a member of Theta Delta Tau, the English honor society. She also served as a tutor in Spanish and writing for the Academic Success Center.
During the 2019-20 academic year, Elias served as the Alumni Association Undergraduate Fellow and a member of the Student Alumni Council, and she is currently working as a graduate assistant for the Alumni Relations Office. Selected as a 2020 Legacy Scholar, Elias received the 2019-20 Alumni Association Scholarship. She has been an event and community volunteer for the Circassian Benevolent Association for more than a decade, and was a four-year recipient of the organization’s Circassian Education Foundation Scholarship.
Elias says that while she is proud to receive this award, she doesn’t feel any more “outstanding” than her fellow students who were also nominated. “The Class of 2020 persevered through the pandemic and all my fellow nominees are amazing and deserve to be recognized.”
Also nominated for the award were:
Frankie D. Cruz
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