College of DuPage student Samiha Syed has been named a 2020 Lincoln Academy of Illinois Student Laureate and is the only community college student in the state to receive the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award, which includes a $500 scholarship.
Each fall, a senior from each of Illinois’ four-year colleges and universities and one student from the state’s community colleges are presented with the award. Students are honored for demonstrating outstanding leadership qualities, service contributions, academic success and extracurricular achievements. This is the second consecutive year that a COD student has won the award.
Syed, a second-year student who is on track to graduate with an Associate in Science degree in May 2021, desired to make a change in the College community from the moment she arrived on campus.
“I deeply value human life and strive to serve mankind as a civically-engaged servant leader in every way I can, especially with regard to civil rights, health care and the STEM field,” she said.
In an effort to be a part of the change she wants to see, Syed currently serves as student trustee on the College’s Board of Trustees as well as a member of the College’s Student Leadership Council (SLC), which facilitates values-based opportunities for leadership development to enhance citizenship at the College and in the community.
As an SLC member, Syed helped to organize and participate in several diversity, equity and inclusion events including the campus-wide Chaps Unite Against Racism initiative. She also assisted in organizing a host of panel discussions and presentations with more than 400 total attendees. In addition, Syed is a member of COD’s Equity and Access Team, serving on the diversity, equity and inclusion subcommittee.
Syed, who holds a 4.0 grade point average, is vice president of the honors society Phi Theta Kappa, through which she is leading a college-wide initiative to help students and community members find assistance with health care, child care, housing, emergency aid and other basic needs.
Syed has also served as president of the College’s Future Physicians Club, executive vice president of the Society of Women Engineers and an officer of Care to Cure. A Living Leadership program participant, she invested more than 200 volunteer hours as a coordinator in a College blood drive and worked on an initiative designed to provide free health screenings on campus to uninsured students and members of the community.
In spring 2020, Syed created Chaps Unite, an initiative to foster greater student involvement on campus and which, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, has evolved into the #ChapsUnite movement. In fall 2020, Chaps Unite was established as an SLC committee and will continue work that supports students academically, socially and emotionally to empower student success.
Syed is grateful for the opportunities to have a positive impact on the lives of others during her time as a COD student.
“I have realized that through my service and devotion while attending COD, I have touched lives of all ages, from children to the elderly,” she said. “These experiences have profoundly enriched my life.”
COD President Dr. Brian Caputo is impressed with Syed’s accomplishments, both in and out of the classroom.
“Samiha is a remarkable young woman who skillfully balances academic excellence, demonstrated leadership and, in her words, ‘a strong desire to leave a lasting legacy,’” he said. “She is an exceptional example of all that a student can be when striving to succeed academically while contributing to the community and the world at large.”
After graduating from COD, Syed hopes to pursue an M.D.-Ph.D. degree and help mitigate health care disparities by serving as a primary investigator, exploring drug efficiency and developing innovative treatments to reduce the market cost of drugs used to treat malignant diseases. She is a recipient of the College of DuPage STEM Student Success Scholarship, funded by the National Science Foundation.
The distinction of being named a Lincoln Academy Student Laureate is something Syed takes pride in and said she will carry with her for life.
“It’s a great honor to receive this recognition,” she said. “Wherever I go, I want to make a positive impact and I feel like winning this award is winning an award for the College because it is a reflection of what a great school and community COD is.”
Syed is thankful for the encouragement that she has received from peers and mentors during her time at COD.“COD is one of the most supportive places I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve always been very welcomed by faculty, advisors and students. I love the school, the culture and the people.”