The words are different in each language, “onelijkheid,” “utofauti,” “niejednakowosc,” “diversita,” or “rozmanitost.” But they all mean the same thing—diversity. Souzan Naser, this year’s Embracing Diversity Award recipient, is no stranger to diversity in any sense of the word.
Those who nominated Naser, Counselor, for the award said, “The omnipresent passion to help move this campus and her community toward cultural competency coupled with her demonstrated mastery in organizing events and hosting guests lends evidence to her candidacy. No one is more deserving than Souzan Naser.”
On campus, Naser has been an integral member of the Celebrating Diversity Task Force, where she helped organize and moderate a panel on interfaith dialogue that stressed the importance of understanding the traditions and rituals in various religions. She was a panel presenter during Black History Month, a committee chairperson for Arab Heritage Month, facilitator of more than 20 sexual assault prevention workshops, including the “It’s on Us” campaign, and chairperson for domestic violence and sexual assault committees. Naser also has been an active member and participant for Women’s History Month, where she has helped organize and present several events.
In addition to all of the college-wide initiatives, Naser is active in the community at-large as a long time Arab American Action Network board member. She also presented a workshop via Skype to help social work students at a university in Michigan learn to work with Arab and Muslim American clients. Naser was an organizer and participant in the organization Team Palestine for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and an organizer for the annual Run for Peace, which takes place on campus attracting nearly 1,000 students, faculty, staff, and community members. As part of Naser’s doctoral studies, her dissertation topic is “Arab and Arab American Cultural Competencies among Counseling Professionals” with a desire to assess the need for cultural competency training to improve the effectiveness of counseling with this population.
What drives her to be so involved? “I’m a proud daughter of immigrants,” she said. “My parents, who came to the U.S. from Palestine as immigrants fleeing occupation, motivate me to push through any challenge because they were able to achieve great things for our family despite the obstacles, and my immigrant husband, whose family also was escaping war and occupation in Palestine and became refugees as a result. Considering the current political context we are in, I am determined to help those on our campus community by offering them support and guidance and emphasizing that education can transform their lives. Last, but certainly not least, my daughters, who are my light and breath of fresh air, and who give me the hope and belief that we can and should work toward a better world than the one we are living in today.”
Naser said she felt incredibly humbled to have been nominated and selected by peers. “I do this work not for the recognition, but because as a person who happens to be a counselor, I care immensely about the well-being of the students we work with in the Counseling Center,” she said. “Enhancing the well-being of all our students, but in particular the vulnerable, oppressed and marginalized students, is an honor.”