Through campus involvement, senior Maya Shah develops professional skills, explores multiculturalism

While senior Maya Shah acknowledges that rural Geneseo is much different from her hometown of Queens, N.Y., she said Geneseo has allowed her to lead, explore and grow through her interests in activities across campus.

Shah said she first visited Geneseo during her senior year of high school on a multicultural bus trip from New York City - an opportunity for prospective students to explore the campus for a weekend. Two people Shah would come to work with professionally organized the trip: Coordinator of Multicultural Programs and Services Fatima Rodriguez-Johnson and former Area Coordinator of Putnam and Wyoming Halls Garry Morgan.

“It’s amazing how the first people I met [at Geneseo] have continued to be a part of my college career,” Shah said.

Morgan hired Shah as a resident assistant in Wyoming Hall during her junior year and Shah currently assists Rodriguez-Johnson in the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services.

When she started at Geneseo, Shah said that she experienced “culture shock.” She added, “I think it’s different for everyone - every single student - but especially for people from a city life.”

Having grown from her change of environment, Shah said she advises students experiencing difficulty transitioning to Geneseo from a city environment to “take advantage of the opportunities, because there are a lot.”

In addition to working as a student assistant in the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, Shah currently holds a long list of leadership positions including senior resident assistant in Erie Hall, Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development mentor and teaching assistant for associate professor of communication Mary Mohan’s COMN 200: Theory and Practice - Public Relations.

A communication major with a conflict studies minor, Shah said her mentoring and leadership roles have helped her grow. Shah said that when working as an RA, “You just learn more and more about yourself, which I really like especially as a senior. You understand who you are in terms of your strengths and skills.”

She added that she continues to dedicate herself to many of her activities because of the “amazing” team members with whom she shares her experiences, including her fellow RAs and GOLD mentors.

As a student assistant in the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, Shah collaborates with other assistants to update the office website, host MOSAIC programs and organize programming ideas for the annual fall Cultural Harmony Week and spring Hip-Hop Symposium.

“Coming to college, [multiculturalism] definitely has made a large impact on me. I guess it comes from a lot of programming that happens already, but also just my appreciation for other cultures, other identities, other traditions,” Shah said.

This year, Shah planned MOSAIC’s “Exploring Celebrations: Eid and Navratri.” She also assisted with the Kinetic Gallery “The Power to Play: From Trash to Treasure” exhibit and organized a talk by oral history organization, StoryCorps, both for Cultural Harmony Week.

As she prepares to graduate in the spring, Shah said, “It hits me how much stuff I did over the past four years … It seems like yesterday, but [I’ve] done so much.” Shah added participating in Real World Geneseo - a student-to-student exploration of multicultural competence - in January 2011 and experience working at the Access Opportunity Programs to assist incoming freshmen during the summer of 2011 to her list of past activities.

She said that she is “very appreciative” of the Geneseo staff. “Take advantage of that just because they do have a lot to offer,” Shah said. “I think that’s one thing I’ll be sad to leave … the people that have helped me and that have given me so much … I can’t wait to send them thank you cards later.”

Shah is currently applying to graduate schools, but is also looking for job opportunities, hoping to chase a wide variety of career interests.