Yara Abdelsalam '21 earns highest student honor at SUNY Old Westbury

President Sams with Presidents Medal Winner Yara Abdelsalam

Yara Abdelsalam, a senior who graduates later this month after completing dual majors in Biological Sciences and Health & Society, has been awarded the SUNY Old Westbury President’s Medal for Scholarship, the highest honor presented to a student at the College. Abdelsalam will graduate having earned a grade point average more than 3.8, earning her Magna Cum Laude honors. The award was presented during the College's Virtual Convocation to Honor Excellence.

Green and gold president's medal on gold chain

"It was personally encouraging to hear Ms. Abdelsalam's story of what drove her academically and personally during her years at Old Westbury," said College President Timothy E. Sams. "From her early years at the College, Ms. Abdelsalam embraced and embodied the social justice mission of the institution, which in turn, has helped her determine her future career pursuits; she's definitely a SUNY Old Westbury success story, and it's my honor to present this award to her." 

Merging her interests in the two majors, with a particular focus on health disparities and epidemiology, Abdelsalam plans to seek a master's degree in Public Health upon graduation. During her studies at Old Westbury, she took part in various research projects in Biological Sciences and Public Health, including being a co-author of a study in the “Microbiology Resource Announcements Journal” from the American Society for Microbiology, and designing a research proposal on gender and multigenerational Arab-household dynamics during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

In her own words, Abdelsalam credits the concepts learned in the first-year "Ethics of Engagement" course as "transformative" and "pushed her out of the comfort zone she previously felt having attended an Islamic grade school and high school." Her co-curricular involvement at SUNY Old Westbury gave her a deeper appreciation of "social justice, and taught her that despite our differences, everyone deserves respects, and we all have similarities in our hopes and dreams."

In addition, Abdelsalam, a resident of Brooklyn, New York, was a member of the Honors College, wrote for The Catalyst student newspaper, and served as a peer tutor for the Public Health Department's Research Methods course. 

The Old Westbury President’s Medal for Scholarship was created in 1986 to honor outstanding academic achievement among its graduating students. To be eligible, a student must be a senior, have completed a minimum of 24 credits at the College, and have earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.75 or greater.