May 17-23, 2002
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IN THIS ISSUE
Speaking on the Lawn
Reserve a 2002 graduation video
Finding cultural identity in deafness and teaching
Six students get grad school boost

Collins takes on international human rights

Student first at U.Va. to win Scottish fellowship
Sullivan Award winners honored
Healing, unity student’s passions
Award also goes to faculty member
Graduates have been pillars of U.Va. student self-governance
College is time of spiritual, intellectual growth
Adult degree program graduates first students
Graduation: Did you know?
Nursing student answers
9-11 call
Students will have their day in the sun
Graduate rallies volunteers to bring arts to schools
Fifteen dozen cookies and a law degree
Wise student aspires to career helping students in higher ed
The beauty of Antarctica beckons, but graduate’s passion is teaching
Bahie Mary Rassekh
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
Bahie Mary Rassekh

Healing, unity student’s passions

By Charlotte Crystal

Bahie Mary Rassekh seeks to heal the world’s wounds.

As a college student, she explored the ills of racism, poverty, disease and despair. As a graduate, she plans to do something about them.

A tall order, perhaps. But that doesn’t discourage her.

Rassekh, 21, who wrote her senior thesis on the economic and social burden of malaria, is receiving an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in biology, sociology and psychology.

Born in Canada to parents of Persian extraction – an American father and a Malian mother – Rassekh grew up in West Africa, in Senegal, Gambia and Mali, where her parents still live. At 12, she enrolled in high school at the Maxwell International Baha’i School, in Victoria, British Columbia.

Founded in Persia in 1844, this peace-loving, independent religion values diversity while viewing unity as a reachable ideal. It encourages believers to pursue justice and understanding. Rassekh’s Baha’i faith has colored her view of the world and molded her four years at the University.

“My passion is unity,” she said.

Rassekh entered U.Va. at 16, serving on the First-Year Council’s Women and Diversity Affairs Council and the next fall, worked with University Union to bring Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to Charlottesville. She also worked with Brothers United Celebrating Knowledge and Success to organize “Reflections on Complexions,” a campus forum on race. And she served as the production assistant for Spectrum Theatre’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” which featured a racially diverse cast.

Rassekh participated in a myriad of cultural groups on Grounds and was a member of the Mahogany dance troupe. She also has helped organize a number of special programs on Grounds that have brought students from all backgrounds together, including a prayer vigil on the Lawn the night of Sept. 11.

After her second year at U.Va., Rassekh took a leave of absence to travel throughout the southern U.S. by herself, driving a used car. She spent time in a Cherokee community in Oklahoma and lived with Baha’i families while organizing retreats for college students to discuss issues of gender and race.

On returning to U.Va., she decided that her path led to medicine, so she packed her third-year schedule with pre-med classes and took her MCATs. During last year’s winter break, she visited her family in Bamako, Mali, and worked with a research project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that is seeking to develop a vaccine against malaria.

“Health is important because it allows humanity to demonstrate its potential,” Rassekh said. “And health is a concrete contribution that I can make to humanity as I strive to make unity through diversity a reality.”

Although she received acceptance letters from several medical schools, Rassekh has decided to postpone going for two years and first pursue a master’s degree in international public health at Johns Hopkins University. There, she hopes to contribute to research at its Malaria Research Institute before continuing her studies in medical school.

Even so, becoming a doctor will be only a milestone on Rassekh’s path, not her destination.

“Medicine’s a tool in a larger framework of what I want to do with my life,” she said. “To bring unity among the diverse peoples of the world, that is what I live for.”


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