January 21, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 8

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    Student elected to College Board

    [sara musallam], by jason smith

    Sara Musallam has begun her work with the College Board. As a member, she brings student concerns to the table for discussion.

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    Four years ago, Sara Musallam was a high school senior in the Chicago Public Schools who did not know the University existed. Now a third-year, public policy major, Musallam wants to reform inner-city education and make sure urban students everywhere not only hear about the University but also want to attend.

    Musallam has already begun her campaign at the national level by serving a two-year term on the College Board’s 16-member Advisory Panel on Student Concerns and the Academic Advisory Council. After reading Musallam’s application essay on improving the high school and college experience, College Board President Donald Stewart appointed Musallam, who was one of four members selected from 350 applicants.

    So far, she has contributed to discussions about advanced placement and financial aid policies. “Often schools say they offer advanced placement courses, but they don’t have teachers trained to teach those courses,” said Musallam. She also has the opportunity to raise questions about other student issues such as financial aid. “Why does scholarship money automatically go toward the college’s contribution and not the parents’ contribution?” When a student earns an outside scholarship, many colleges decrease the amount of financial contributions for the student and the university yet make no adjustments to the amount of parents’ contributions.

    Concerns like these are the focus of the College Board’s quarterly panel discussions held in New York. A not-for-profit association of schools and universities, the board is dedicated to helping students succeed in the transition from high school to college. “The advisory panel is extremely important because it ensures that student perspectives are present in everything we do,” said Doug Lynch, director of Member Services of the College Board. “The transition to college is an anxious time for students, and all students are better off if we know how we can improve our programs and services to best serve them.”

    Vice President and Associate Dean of Enrollment at the University Michael Behnke, who also serves on the Board of Trustees for the College Board, said, “Although I have not seen Sara in action because she serves on a different assembly, I have several students as members of my assembly [on secondary school guidance and college admissions], and they often provide a very important student perspective.”

    Musallam’s first perspective on the University was during a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry. Looking out on the Midway from her school bus window, Musallam wondered aloud, “What are all those castle-looking buildings?” Her trigonometry teacher answered the question and became Musallam’s inspiration for applying to the College.

    “When I got here I was mad, not at the college, but at the public educational system for what I didn’t know,” said Musallam. “I thought, ‘Who is this Marx person everyone keeps talking about?’ I wished I had at least heard of him before I arrived.”

    Musallam would like to see better funding for general education, increased pay for public school teachers and a positive shift in high school students’ attitudes about education. “Most of the kids at my high school have the general mentality of settling for less.” Musallam is trying to change that by returning to Hubbard High School for college fairs and helping the University recruit there––recruiting she would like to see at more inner-city schools.

    “Like all Chicago students, Sara has learned to think on her feet and to be unabashed in speaking her opinions on a variety of topics,” said Katie Nash, Dean of Students in the College. “We are very proud that a student from our College has been chosen for this important committee work.”

    Musallam said, “I was so happy to see how much the College Board values my contribution and how they view me as an equal.”