Associate Director of Science Policy and Legislations, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
BA 1998, Rice University
PhD 2004, University of California, Berkeley
ARA Board term ends: 2021
Get to Know Shefa
What part of serving on the ARA Board are you most excited about?
Like every Rice admit pinching myself since I got my acceptance letter, I questioned if there had been some mistake. Which may explain why I’ve spent 20 years since graduation recruiting and interviewing for the Rice Alumni Volunteers for Admission. I’ve seen Admissions up close; I’ve been a student; I’ve helped with Development; now I’m ready to explore the other side of the equation: the alumni. How has Rice set the trajectory for its students’ successes. I want to explore how Rice connects with its alumni. More importantly, for alumni who don’t feel connected, what can we do better? These age-old questions are not unique to Rice. But Rice consistently has “the Happiest Students” with the “Best Quality of Life”. How do these attributes translate into the alumni community? To find out, I look forward to working with diverse, accomplished, and Rice-inspired colleagues on the ARA Board.
What is your favorite “Only at Rice” memory or story?
Only at Rice might you sit down to lunch in your dining hall, and happen to sit next to Political Science professor (and Jones College associate) Rick Stoll hosting newly-arrived-on-Campus Baker Institute Director and former Ambassador to Israel and Syria Edward Djerejian. Only at Rice would Ambassador Djerejian accept an invitation for an interview in your undergrad startup newspaper, flux, and regale you with stories of marathon negotiations with Hafez al Assad. Only at Rice, does the Ambassador recognize you a few months later backstage at the inaugural Baker Institute Conference. Only at Rice does he take the time to introduce you to General Colin Powell before his first public appearance since declining to run for President. Rice manages to simultaneously exert its oversized gravity while also maintaining the rarefied atmosphere of a small community.
If you could give one piece of advice to Rice students, what would it be?
College is an all-you-can-eat buffet of ideas. You will never have the same opportunity to sample ideas in quantum physics, philosophy of health care, Medieval history, and linguistic phonetics all at once [Sophomore year… and I majored in Biochem]. So many students come in laser focused on a preconceived major. But at Rice, you don’t have to declare your major until the end of your second year, and then you can change it every day, if you want (just remember to show up with enough credits for a major on graduation day). Take classes out of your major! Maximize the benefits of Rice’s pass/fail policy—you should always designate one class P/F, but as an incentive to work hard, you can convert it back to a grade if you do well. Your education is so much more than preparing you for a career—it’s about appreciating all the richness the world has to offer. Survey seniors about their favorite classes—better yet, ask about their favorite professors. Rice attracts professors who love teaching. A good professor can make even a dull sounding class fun, and you might be surprised how it can change your life!