Musarrat Lamia
Senior Spotlight: Musarrat Lamia ’21 Reflects on Her Personal Growth and Evolution at John Jay

When Musarrat “Mus” Lamia ’21 looks back at her John Jay journey, she’s filled with pride for what she’s been able to accomplish. She’s an Honors Program student who’s been on the Dean’s list several times. She’s had numerous internships and fellowships, and is currently a Vera Fellow interning at Housing and Services, Inc. And, she’s held various student government roles, including Student Council President. But what she’s most proud of is her personal evolution, her determination to overcome incredible challenges, and the role the John Jay community played in her growth. “The Mus that walked into John Jay freshman year is very different from the Mus graduating from John Jay,” says Lamia, who’s earning her CUNY B.A. in Epistemology and Metaphysics. “I entered the College as a shy person who was a bit closed off and apprehensive about meeting new people and building relationships. I leave now more open-minded, stronger and more confident in myself, with a goal of earning a Ph.D. and becoming a CUNY college professor, and the drive to do work that is justice focused.”

“Education is the one thing no one can take away from you.” —Musarrat “Mus” Lamia

Putting Education First
Lamia grew up in a loving, supportive home that championed the importance of education. “My siblings and I—there are six of us, I’m the second oldest—were raised to put our education before anything else,” she says. “My parents immigrated from Bangladesh and sacrificed so much for us to get a good education. They always said that education is the one thing no one can take away from you.” When it came time to choose a college, she considered going away but decided she would have a CUNY experience like her older sister. “I like to say we have a CUNY family. My older sister graduated from Brooklyn College, and one of my younger sisters is graduating from Baruch College this fall,” says Lamia. “When I was narrowing down my choices, John Jay kept drawing me in. The College had everything I ever wanted to learn and its justice-focused mission was really powerful.” While she didn’t know exactly what career path she wanted to take, Lamia knew John Jay would give her the kind of education that would ready her for the future. “John Jay offers students so many course options, diverse programming, and experiential learning opportunities. To get the chance to explore so many opportunities over these last four years, and to see how justice is connected to almost everything, has been really incredible.”

Accessing Student Resources
College life also came with a new set of challenges, like an increased workload, the pressures of being a student leader, and balancing school and life demands. “When I started at John Jay, I was dealing with a lot of personal loss in my life, and I realized early on in my College experience that I needed mental health support to help me unpack what I was feeling and to process the trauma. At first, I was apprehensive about seeking help, but I’m glad I did. John Jay’s Wellness Center was where I learned the importance and benefits of counseling services and mental health care,” she says. “There’s this stigma around mental health and there shouldn’t be. Mental health care is health care. We all have our struggles and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that fact and getting the help you need.”

“As Student Council President, I woke up every day with a clear purpose and a passion to advocate for my fellow John Jay students.” —Musarrat “Mus” Lamia

Overcoming Challenges
Becoming Student Council President during the 2019–2020 academic year, Lamia was the person students turned to when they had a pressing question or concern. It was a job she took great pride in doing. “As Student Council President, I woke up every day with a clear purpose and a passion to advocate for my fellow John Jay students,” she says, adding that she was able to do the job effectively because of the student government team, especially her vice president, Fidel Osorio ’21. “Fidel was there every step of the way, offering encouragement and support, being so giving of his time, and always providing a listening ear. He helped me get through all the challenges I went through during my presidency.”

One of those challenges, was the Covid-19 health crisis. “The Covid-19 pandemic happened while I was still Student Council President and like many other students and their families, the pandemic and resulting economic turmoil hit me and my family hard. My dad works in construction and had spent the last four years building a house for us. We had just moved into the house a month before the pandemic shut everything down, including construction work across the City,” explains Lamia. “With this new space came a whole bunch of new financial obligations. So, you take the fear of this virus, the financial stress because of the economy, and add to that the stress of transitioning to a virtual model and being Student Council President, and it became an incredibly difficult situation for me. I found myself really struggling.” Not only did Lamia have to decide whether she could balance being a student, Student Council President, and operating in a distance-learning environment, she also tried to help the family with their finances. “Through the Wellness Center I applied to the Student Emergency Fund and I’m so thankful I did because that money enabled us to pay bills and kept us afloat. Without John Jay’s Wellness Center, Counseling Services Center, and the Student Emergency Fund I honestly don’t know where I would be.”

“Through the Wellness Center I applied to the Student Emergency Fund and I’m so thankful I did because that money enabled us to pay bills and kept us afloat.” —Musarrat “Mus” Lamia

Getting Ready for the Future
As her John Jay journey comes to a close, Lamia is appreciative of all of her experiences and the friends she’s made along the way and acknowledges that she’ll miss being on campus with her peers. “One of my favorite things to do on campus was to walk through the Jay Walk. It was this peaceful place to connect with friends and feel grounded in between all the meetings and classes. It was also a place where John Jay’s incredible diversity could truly be seen,” she says. “The energy John Jay students bring to the College, the determination they all have to change the world and make it better is truly inspiring.”

“I’d love to be a CUNY professor. That would be a dream come true.” —Musarrat “Mus” Lamia

After graduating from John Jay, Lamia is hoping to work in the social justice field and help underserved communities, before she goes on to pursue her doctorate degree. “Right now, as a Vera Fellow, I’m interning with Housing and Services, Inc., a nonprofit organization that is working to end chronic homelessness and support those at risk of being displaced. The experience has made me realize the importance of social justice work and how big its impact can be,” she says. “I’d love to continue working at Housing and Services and helping the homeless population before returning to school.” Once she does return, Lamia plans to earn her Ph.D. in Philosophy and become a professor. “Because of John Jay, I have faith that we will live in a fairer, kinder, and more just world. That faith comes from my experience in John Jay classrooms and its helped shape my future goals. I’d love to be a CUNY professor. That would be a dream come true. I think so much magic happens in the classroom. To be able to facilitate thought-provoking discussions and present lessons that open people’s hearts and minds and shows them how we can impact the world in a positive way, that’s something I would never grow tired of,” she says. “I want to help empower the next generation, in the same way my John Jay experience empowered me.”