Junior Phi Beta Kappa inductee Shawn Syed (The College of New Jersey, 2016), is not waiting for college to be over to pursue his passions. A Philosophy major with minors in Political Science and Business, Shawn already has worked with a variety of political figures, including U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and President Barak Obama.
As Syed completes his senior year, he reflects on these formative, exciting experiences and what his next steps will be in both his career and as a lifelong learner.
Chapter and Induction Year: Delta Chapter of New Jersey (The College of New Jersey), 2016
Field(s) of Study: Philosophy, Law, Political Science, Business
Tell us a bit about your background.
I am currently a Senior Philosophy major with a concentration in Law and Philosophy at The College of New Jersey. In addition to a Philosophy major, I have corresponding minors in Political Science and Business. I am also on a competitive South-Asian Fusion Dance Team based in Philadelphia, the Broad Street Baadshahz. Upon graduation, I hope to attend law school and enter the workforce. My passion lies in public service. I have spent time working for Senator Cory Booker, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, and for President Obama at the White House. In my eyes, public service is a privilege.
Many opportunities I have been given in my young life are thanks to my physician mother, my banker father, as well as my loving brothers, one a lawyer and one in medical school. As first-generation Americans, my brothers and I are all motivated to give back to the communities that have supported us throughout our lives.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
My White House supervisor lived by the mantra, “stay humble, stay hungry.” I love this quote because it is applicable to all parts of life. Staying hungry means never being complacent and always doing the best work possible. Staying humble and hungry can be applied to academics, sports, and even dance. Having a humble attitude and a desire to constantly improve are great qualities for anyone to have.
What experience during your internship at the White House had the largest impact on you?
Though every day at the White House was incredibly significant, one of the experiences that had a large impact on me was bringing my parents to the Oval Office. I undoubtedly stand on the shoulders of my parents, and their relentless sacrifice enabled me grow as a person. Bringing them through the most powerful office in the world was especially meaningful as they were not born in the United States. Seeing the pride in their smiles is something I will always cherish.
What made you decide on Philosophy as a major and how do you think it will enhance your future career path?
Early in my college career, I decided to take an introductory level Philosophy class where my mind was pushed more in a week than it had been pushed in years of studying. I loved the way every day required deep thought, analysis, and critical thinking. I am fortunate that TCNJ’s philosophy department is full of passionate professors who are dedicated to helping students push their academic limits. I feel it will enhance my future career path because the skills learned in philosophy are universally applicable. Logic and ethics are needed in the field of law, public service, and even in everyday conversation.
What does being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa as a junior mean to you?
Being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa as a junior meant a lot to me. Though I have never done things for recognition, being recognized by the members of Phi Beta Kappa among TCNJ’s professors was very satisfying. It is also nice to be in the same company as 39 Supreme Court Justices and 17 U.S. Presidents.
What three/four people from the past would you like to have dinner with and why?
I would like to have a Presidential dinner with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Each of these three served our nation at such different times during American history. Their leadership styles and different backgrounds would make for some really interesting dinner conversation.