Northeastern University

Tiffany Syariff - Class of 2011

Human Services and International Affairs

Why did you choose this major, and does/did it seem like the right major for you? Why?

I entered Northeastern as an International Affairs major. Through my experiences abroad I was able to interact with people of differing cultural backgrounds and populations of need. I realized that what I really wanted to do was create change to the lives of the people I had met because they had made such a large impact on my life. I feel Human Services is fitting for my interests because it targets need and change, and International Affairs still allows me to discover the world of developing countries and diplomacy.

Why did you choose NU? Was/is this the right school for you?

I selected Northeastern for its cooperative program. I am from California, and I had never been to the each coast before, so when I was accepted to the university I decided to explore the area before making any final decisions. I fell in love with the campus, and the city of Boston. I knew Northeastern was the right school for me because it offered a unique learning environment for me both academically and personally.

Northeastern is not a typical college campus. I have been inspired and encouraged by advisors, professors, and fellow students to pursue an education that is unique to me. With each class, coop and study abroad experience I have come away with lessons about the world around me that I would not have learned just sitting in a classroom.

My trips to China and Benin challenged me to speak a language I barely knew, and take a crowded minibus to a village where the people had never seen an American. I discussed social topics that made me feel uncomfortable around a group of students that grew up in an entirely different world. However, through strong discussions and casual exchanges of laughter I left with new relationships, and a greater appreciation of the beauty of strangers.

I know I will walk away from Northeastern wanting to give future students the same opportunities I had.

How many co-ops have you completed?


Can you list the companies and give a quick synopsis of what you did?

Research Assistant and Legal Aide, Boston City Council in the office of Boston City Council President Mike Ross. Aside from the general clerical work, I was responsible for researching various topics (i.e. physical education in Boston Public Schools, and comparing the various park systems in states like New York and Chicago). I also wrote letters in support of/opposing proposed legislation, constituent concerns and resolutions/citations. There were even times when I was able to actually help a constituent when they contacted the office. I took part in activities in the community on the weekends, like the Pride Parade.

I completed special projects as my responsibilities increased in the office like coordinating a ski trip for youth from a local neighborhood, Pride Brunch for the GLBT community before the flag raising, a pizza party for a class at the Tobin School and an assembly performed by the Boston Ballet for the Tobin School.

Professional communication is the most valuable skill I came away with from my co-op. It is easy to communicate with friends, teachers, etc. However, this job gave me the opportunity to meet a wide array of people from constituent with neighborhood concerns to important political figures. I have learned how to communicate professionally with these groups of people. I have been exposed to the inter-workings of a city. I have learned how legislation gets passed, and how simple services like getting a sidewalk repaired is done.

My second coop was at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the Marathon & Running Programs (M&RP). As the intern, my responsibilities were to respond to inquiries regarding the running program and its official teams, update the various websites, and assist runners with various fundraising questions. A major part of my coop was preparing for the marathon weekend. Weeks and months were devoted to preparing the marathon team for the Boston Marathon, and all of the Dana-Farber festivities surrounding the marathon. I did everything from major mailings to organizing volunteer projects for a 1,000 person event.

The Marathon & Running Programs at Dana-Farber is constantly changing, constantly seeking ways to become more efficient and effective. I took part in modifying the runner tracking system for the Running the Race Against Cancer program in M&RP, and was given the freedom to provide my own input for items like informational handouts and marketing strategies for buck slip distribution.

I learned a great deal about how a non-profit functions, and the important components of fundraising. The idea of fundraising can be as simple as asking a donor to make a gift to running 26.2 miles towards a goal of $4.4 million. I have learned that one cannot create change unless you tell your story. The most successful fundraisers were those who told their story to anyone who would listen because in most cases people respond positively. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has taught me that donors, fundraisers--people can unite under a single cause and really do something great.

Marathon weekend was the highlight of my coop. I was part of the inter-workings of a major weekend event. I have organized my own projects and events,but marathon weekend preparation made me realize how important it is to bring in the key players, prioritize, delegate and update your team when necessary. Every piece of the puzzle is important, even the smaller pieces. It is important not to overlook any details, as they may have a major impact on the outcome of the entire event.

Did you have any other "learning from outside of the classroom" (service learning, student leadership, study abroad, research, or volunteering) that also enriched your time here?

Yes I traveled to China during Summer I 2007 with the Dialogue Program. We studied Chinese at Bei Wai University in Beijing, and traveled to Shanghai and An Hui Province. I also traveled to Benin, West Africa for Summer II 2008 Dialogue of Civilizations. There we focused on service-learning. I spent two weeks teaching English language at an orphanage for young girls from villages throughout Benin. We traveled to Cotonou, Benin and Porto Novo, Benin. I took part in the completion of a major service-learning project that encompassed sustainability and needs assessment. Our group refurbished a building that was utilized by a non-profit whose goal was to provide a supplemental learning environment for students from the nearby school who did not have a home.

Questions Answered as of 06/18/2010