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Pay it forward

How one student's struggle to graduate helped define her life path

Part of a special feature celebrating the success of Memorial's graduates. This feature coincides with spring 2018 convocation ceremonies.

By Victoria Ward

Ladan Mowlid didn’t set out to graduate with a high GPA. She just wanted to graduate, period.

“It’s no secret that I was born with an autoimmune disorder,” she said. “My chronic health concerns disturbed any sense of routine that I strived for . . . So, with that challenge in mind, my goal was never to achieve Dean’s list or to be the best of the best in my program. My goal was to heal my pains, complete my essays, write my exams and to pass my courses.”

Ms. Mowlid, who is excited to receive her bachelor of arts degree during convocation ceremonies at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on Tuesday, May 29, says some days she wrote essays from a hospital bed, while other days she found the strength to be active on campus. She says her health taught her not to take any moment she had during her undergraduate program for granted.

“Being able to pursue post-secondary is a privilege that many of the folks in my life didn’t have. Believe it or not, my health, both the good and the not-so-great moments, were what kept me going and reminded me to savour the undergrad experience.”

Making the most of things

Born and raised in Toronto, Ont., Ms. Mowlid came to Memorial to pursue a double major in communications studies and sociology.

The goal was to hone her communication skills and gain a deeper understanding of social problems so she could one day advocate for underrepresented members of society. It was during her first year of university that doctors diagnosed her with a drug-induced tumour.

The tumour, she says, stemmed from the immunosuppressive drugs she’d received to help combat the debilitating symptoms of her autoimmune disorder. However, what might have felt like one step forward, two steps back, didn’t stop Ms. Mowlid.

“It was a cycle that left me feeling like I was spiralling downwards.” — Ladan Mowlid

Despite suffering from chronic and acute medical conditions, she was intent on making the most of her time at Memorial. She maintained a full course load, volunteered, got involved on campus and worked 2-3 part-time jobs at a time to help offset the costs of travelling back to Toronto for medical treatments every six weeks.

“It was a cycle that left me feeling like I was spiralling downwards,” she said.

“I felt guilty having to constantly ask for extensions, deferrals or even having to miss out on social outings. It definitely wasn’t easy juggling it all. It constantly reminded me why I needed to work that much harder to stay in school and graduate.”

Finding her path

In addition to developing incredible self-discipline, Ms. Mowlid credits the student affairs professionals at Memorial for playing an integral role in her success. She is grateful to Dr. Jennifer Massey, director, Student Life, who voluntarily served as a mentor and supported her in solidifying her career choice.

From left, Dr. Jennie Massey and Ladan Mowlid share a happy moment prior to Ms. Ladan’s convocation day.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“When you’re a first generation student and the first in your family to pursue post-secondary, most of your decisions are usually influenced by whatever information you could gather from faculty, staff, senior students and Google,” said Ms. Mowlid.

“However, what you don’t usually have is someone who is already in a similar career path you’re interested in and who is able to see your bigger picture . . . in other words, a mentor. Dr. Massey is my mentor.”

Ms. Mowlid says that departments such as academic advising, scholarships, awards and financial aid, code of conduct, the Blundon Centre, the Student Wellness and Counselling Centre, the communications studies and sociology departments, and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences dean’s office all supported her in times of stress, sickness and sorrow. She says they helped eliminate barriers that could have jeopardized her ability to graduate.

“The students, faculty and staff that make up the Memorial family taught me to excel, to challenge my way of thinking, to hone in on my strengths and, most importantly, to learn. The size of the school coupled with the people that make up the school shaped me to find my path and become the person I am today.”

The next chapter

When asked how she feels about graduating, Ms. Mowlid says she’s looking forward to seeing the smiles of her parents, siblings, closest friends and her mentor as she crosses the stage.

Following this long-awaited celebration, she’ll return to Toronto briefly before heading to Atlanta, Ga., where she’s excited to pursue a master of education in higher education leadership at Mercer University this fall.

“I want to work towards a career in student affairs so that I can pay it forward by helping other students overcome their own barriers.”

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