When Abiba Salahou was looking at colleges, she knew she wanted a small school. "I was afraid of disappearing in a big university!" she explains. She visited campus along with another student from her Syracuse, New York, high school. By the end of the day, both women had decided that Bard was their top choice. "The people we met and interactions we had that day made me feel that Bard was the right fit. Every student I met wanted to tell me about the College. I knew I wanted to study biology, and I met a woman in the bookstore who was a bio major. She gave me her email and the contact for her favorite bio professor, and told me to email her any time. I felt like I already knew people. It was so nice to think I would come back and already have friends."
Abiba is currently conducting a Senior Project in neurobiology under the supervision of her adviser, Arseny Khakhalin. In her study, she examines how the SSRI antidepressant fluoxetine, commonly known as Prozac, affects behaviors such as feeding and appetite in the Xenopus laevis tadpole model.
Abiba plans to become a doctor, but she also loves the arts and is an avid reader and writer. "My academic interests are broad," she says, "I wanted a college that would allow me to explore both the arts and sciences." Bard’s writing-intensive focus and distribution requirements appealed to her. In conjunction with her biology major and premedical track course work, she’s been able to take fiction workshops. From the beginning of her first year, taking Language and Thinking and First-Year Seminar (FYSEM), she felt challenged to think deeply and write well about material outside of her major. "My FYSEM professor, Wyatt Mason, was helpful in getting me to push myself further and question my academic goals. He is an inspirational, profound person. The first day he walked in to class and asked us, 'What are you doing here?' He meant at college, in life. I had to really think about that and it often comes back to me. He pushed us to think outside of the text." She adds, "All of our discussions were more than just analyzing a paragraph."
Abiba cochairs the Muslim Student Organization with fellow senior Sabrina Sultana, and the club has become more active on campus under their leadership. "One of the most rewarding things about being at Bard has been the sense of belonging and the impact I've been able to have with the Muslim Student Organization. We're doing a lot more events and working with other clubs on campus. Last year we raised over a thousand dollars for the Kingston Food Pantry at our Fast-a-thon." The club organizes students on campus to serve the community, raise awareness of Muslim American cultures, and to combat discrimination in a difficult national climate. Abiba has been instrumental in organizing events that encourage campus conversations about diversity and inclusion. "I like to ask challenging questions," she says, "and push people to rethink their assumptions. Let's not shy away from difficult discussions."
Abiba readily admits that Bard has changed her. She has become much more aware and outspoken over the last four years. "Bard has really shown me what kind of person I am. I've learned a lot outside of class. Issues that used to seem abstract have become more real and personal for me; as a result I've become less passive." She has become more deliberate in her choices. "I better understand the impact of my actions now, whether it's making smart decisions about academics and my future plans, or being aware of all the messed up things in the world and not accepting them, taking responsibility to deal with them. That's something Bard has definitely taught me to do."
Read more about Language and Thinking, First-Year Seminar, and other elements of the curriculum at Bard.
Read more about joining or creating a club at the College.