Connecting face-to-face: Valedictorian prioritizes supporting one another


Published: May 16, 2022
a student sits in her wheelchair outside
Shahreen Zannat. (Marlayna Demond '11/UMBC)

Shahreen Zannat 

Degree: B.S., Biological Sciences and Psychology
Hometown: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Plans: Working in the lab of Michael Summers, UMBC

“One of the things I’m most appreciative of is the inclusive and diverse campus of UMBC. This means a great deal to me because I often find myself to be a little isolated in group settings due to my disability. But not only are the faculty extremely accommodating, but students go out of their way to support me.”

To graduate this May, Shahreen Zannat ’22, biological sciences and psychology, has overcome more than her share of personal and educational barriers. After suffering a spinal cord injury at age 15, Zannat, now quadriplegic, was told by counselors to expect to attend college fully online. But she wanted an in-person undergraduate experience—connecting with a campus and community face-to-face. 

a student sits in her wheelchair outside
Shahreen Zannat. (Marlayna Demond ’11/UMBC)

Zannat worked with the Maryland Department of Health to obtain enough hours for her caregivers to attend classes with her at UMBC. Her efforts and self-advocacy paid off—she is the class of 2022’s valedictorian representing the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences and College of Engineering and Information Technology. And she’ll graduate with substantial research, service, and teaching experience.

Stephen Miller, associate professor of biology, says that Zannat stands out among his students in his past two decades of teaching. “Shahreen inspires by virtue of her elite level of achievement,” says Miller. Zannat both completed research in Miller’s lab and served as a teaching assistant in his biology classes.

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