By Maha Bazzi, MAPP ‘19
Making the decision to return to school to pursue my MS in Animals and Public Policy was no easy decision. I left my loving husband, my two cats, my adoring family, and the comforts of my New York apartment to again become a student. I did not come to this choice easily, but the MAPP program and the faculty at Tufts have made my transition seamless.
I have never taken the well-trodden path. As a college student in Beirut, Lebanon, I spent a summer in New York interning with a creative graphic designer at his Union Square firm. I learned a lot and fell in love with the vibrant, bustling city. I dedicated my last year of college to applying to master’s programs in the city and was thrilled to be accepted into the packaging design program at Pratt Institute. There began my New York City adventure, and soon I knew it would be my forever home. After graduation, I accepted a position as a designer and marketing coordinator for one of New York’s leading real estate firms.
After a few years, I decided to take a sabbatical and spent a few months volunteering in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle and on the Galapagos Islands. It was there that my love for animals was awakened, as a lot of the work I did was aimed at preserving wildlife and its habitat. I quickly overcame my fear of spiders and learned of the healing powers of the jungle.
I returned home knowing that I needed to do more. I left my design and marketing job and taught English as a second language while planning my wedding to my wonderful husband.
Upon my return from a trip to Thailand in 2016, where I volunteered in an Asian elephant sanctuary, I knew that it was time for me to translate my passion for animals into a practical career. I researched endlessly and when I found the MAPP program at Tufts, I was sure it was the one.
From the very moment I set foot in orientation, I knew I had made the right decision. Right away it was clear that the program would help me identify my strengths and support my ultimate career goals. To say the program is student-centered is a gross understatement.
The seasoned professors immediately took an interest in each and every student, celebrating our unique backgrounds and helping us recognize how the program could help us grow. Each student was assigned a mentor whose research aligns with our interests so that they may guide us on our journey. This is not to say that I’m limited to one mentor. It is quite the contrary!
If I am stuck on a homework question or simply want to discuss a particular policy that is troubling me, all I have to do is knock and enter. Professors’ doors are always open.
The program encourages collaboration while leaving room for personal growth; it fosters creativity while driving home the key tenets we need to assimilate in order to graduate both confident and capable.
Being among awe-inspiring leaders in the field and feeling their dedication to my growth and success stimulates and gratifies me every day. I believe that my skill set will be best put to use in lobbying, where I can translate my love for animals into a language that legislators can understand.
Life to me is not about making the easy choices; it is about living your true passion, and thanks to the MAPP program, I will do just that. I will contribute to the future of animal advocacy and, in the vision shared by the professors, I see hope for a better world.