Even as a transfer student with a schedule that would make most people faint, senior Student Association President Haleema Murtaza has had no problem making a name for herself here at Geneseo.
Murtaza was born in Lahore, Pakistan. At the age of three, her family moved to Troy, N.Y. where she went to elementary and middle school. When she was 11, her parents thought she wasn't "cultured" enough, and sent her back to Pakistan to get in touch with her roots.
Murtaza respected her parents' wishes, and moved with her mom and siblings to Pakistan where she went to a five-year all-girls' high school that followed the British system. She was taught British English from Spanish nuns in a school that combined American and Pakistani culture.
Life in Pakistan was a hard adjustment for Murtaza. She said it was a culture shock to see the villages of a developing nation, and that it took her a year to adjust to cows that strayed into the middle of the road. It was also a big difference for Murtaza to have maids, butlers and drivers. At first she was made fun of for being "too westernized," which caused her to hate high school. Once she made friends, however, she said she had the time of her life.
In Pakistan, Murtaza said she was a different person. She was highly athletic, theatrical and interested in science. Although she was not into politics, she enjoyed debates and was well spoken.
Murtaza spoke fondly of her high school experience and said that, by the end of it, she was a "social butterfly." Her high school gave her the confidence that she has today.
Following high school, Murtaza came back to the United States for college. She had "both sides of the story;" a happy medium between her two cultures.
Although she wanted to go to an all-girls' college in Massachusetts, Murtaza was encouraged to go to SUNY Albany while her sister went to Geneseo. She described herself at Albany as "the kid in the corner," not participating in any activities. With her mom in Pakistan and her dad traveling often, Murtaza was told after her first semester that she had to go to school with her sister.
Murtaza is an international relations major, and after traveling to such places as India, Thailand and Japan, Murtaza was influenced to become an Asian studies minor. Her first involvement on campus after transferring was with Shakti, the South Asian Cultural Organization. Murtaza felt the club was so welcoming that it changed her scope of Geneseo. This convinced her to run for the executive board, becoming the co-president. From there, Murtaza never looked back.
During her time at Geneseo, Murtaza has been the chair of Undergraduate Alumni Association Elections committee, a resident assistant for Erie Hall, the recording secretary of Student Association and a member of the national sorority Sigma Kappa.
It was her sister who encouraged her to run for SA president. "I wanted to reach the top," Murtaza said. "It's my personality."
As the current SA president, Murtaza is considered the "face of campus" and is constantly busy. By color-coordinating the events in her agenda, Murtaza's extreme organization keeps her on top of her game. She loves that she has the ability to help so many people and impact their college experiences. Considered approachable and friendly, Murtaza always has a smile on her face.
Her future is undecided, although she says she would like to go to law school. Since seventh grade, Murtaza has always dreamed of being state senator. "I love being a leader," Murtaza said. Although she visits Pakistan every year, she said she won't consider living there until possibly retirement.