‘Miles to go before I sleep’

Wright State graduate student Syeda Bahar shines as a campus and community leader

Syeda Bahar, a master of public administration student at Wright State, is a leader on campus, has interned with nonprofit community organizations and has participated in an international leadership conference. (Photos by Erin Pence)

It started with her grandfather. He would take young Syeda Bahar on long walks through the Bangladesh countryside and often introduce her to the idea of democracy, political campaigns and elections. The young girl would even play “elections” with her friends.

“That’s when I think my interest in leadership started growing inside me,” said Bahar.

Today, the Wright State University graduate student has taken on leadership roles not only on campus but in the outside community and even on the international stage.

Bahar is pursuing her master’s degree in public administration and carries a 4.0 grade point average. She is chief operating officer of the President’s Ambassadors Program at Wright State and fundraising director of the university chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society, which recognizes academic achievement among undergrad and graduate students.

She works as an intern at Premier Health’s Help Me Grow Brighter Futures, a nonprofit that provides home visiting services to educate, support and advocate for healthy births, child development, strong family units, economic self-sufficiency and school readiness.

Bahar helps conduct research, does data analysis, helps with staff training and recently held a diversity and inclusion workshop. Her current research involves assessing the evidenced-based home visiting program nurse-family partnership. She is trying to gauge the effectiveness the program in decreasing the infant mortality rate.

Last February, Bahar was awarded a travel grant to attend the 2019 Asia-Pacific Leadership Summit in Adelaide, Australia, representing Wright State, the United States and Bangladesh on the international stage. At the summit, she participated in sessions on diversity and inclusion as well as cultural sensitivity.

Bahar was admitted to Wright State in 2017 on scholarship and studies public policies and contemporary issues in public administration. She is an advocate for women’s participation in community development, believes that public administrators should have various experiences and challenges herself with learning new things.

In fall 2018, Bahar secured the graduate research assistantship position among a competitive group of applicants. She also won the prestigious American Public Works Association’s Graduate Scholarship and W.D. Heisel Memorial Scholarship. She was also awarded the College of Liberal Arts Leadership Scholarship.

After graduating, Bahar wants to eventually return to her native Bangladesh and work to improve the government system.

As a member of the President’s Ambassadors Program and its chief operating officer, Syeda helps organize and manage volunteers during campus tours and events.

In spring 2019, she landed the internship with East End Community Services, where she helped conduct research and data analysis for substance abuse and adverse childhood experiences. She also assisted in enlisting the vacant properties in the neighborhood for infrastructural development as well as created a strategic plan for reallocation of vacant properties.

“It’s a very underprivileged community, but it was exactly what I wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to see how a developed country managed to work for the community. It was a great opportunity for me to enhance my knowledge and experience.”

Upon completion of her degree, Bahar wants to join public service in the areas of public health policy, urban planning and the relation of local government to nonprofits.

At Help Me Grow Brighter Futures, she is working on a research project designed to improve public health policy and ensure an equal health outcome for the community. Her long-term career goal is to return to her native Bangladesh and work to improve the government system.

“I definitely want to devote myself to the betterment of my country,” she said.” I want to improve the government system and start with local government. But before I do that, I have to gather experience and knowledge.”

Bahar grew up in a small village in the Sylhet region of Bangladesh, the South Asian country. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration, in 2011 and 2013 respectively, from the University of Dhaka, whose students and teachers played a central role in the independence of Bangladesh. While in school, she worked in local government.

“That’s when I felt I had to do something for rural women,” she said. “They should be empowered, and they should be given the opportunity to show their hidden talent, what they can do if they get in positions to be leaders.”

Bahar’s high-achievement lifestyle is fueled and inspired by the words of American poet Robert Frost, words she calls her “magic spell”:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

Bahar recalls the time when she was carrying a heavy academic load, working as a graduate research assistant and applying for multiple scholarships.

“It was tough for me. There were times when I thought about giving up,” she said. “But then I remembered those four lines, and it gave me the courage to keep going.”

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