Leena Ali ’21

She followed in her sister’s footsteps – a very long way.

Leena Ali outside of the Sakowich Campus Center

Leena Ali traveled roughly 10,000 miles from Saudi Arabia to the United States to attend Merrimack. Always interested in the health sciences, initially she thought she would pursue a 3+2 program in athletic training. After a distinguished four years at Merrimack, Ali will travel less than 100 miles south to Brown University where she will study for her master’s in public health.

First and foremost, Ali is a passionate, determined and bright young woman. She grew up in what she refers to as an openminded, bilingual household where both Arabic and English were spoken. Her older sister had flourished at Merrimack, and Ali had visited and really liked the campus community so she, too, chose Merrimack. Once here, she realized how many opportunities for explorational and personal development existed on campus.

When asked what surprised her most at Merrimack she answered, “the close relationships with professors and staff.” For Ali, Maura Shaffer, academic adviser for international students, was extraordinarily helpful. The International Student Support (ISS) Center is robust, not only helping students adjust to campus life but also helping them engage their passions. Ali became an Ambassador to help younger international students adjust. In April 2021 at the virtual ceremony for the Merrimack LEAD awards, Ali was a recipient of the Travis G. Kong Student Leadership Award for her outstanding service to Merrimack.

Her academic interests in the health sciences, bioethics, and gender studies led her to participate in the Unity House Council. And as the President of the Interfaith Alliance on campus, she engages with Jewish, Christian and Muslim students finding commonality and bridging divides where they may exist. Through these activities, Ali developed a close relationship with Nicole Benevenia, campus minister for Service and Social Justice.

Through her academic work, Ali has become particularly interested in studying the social determinants of health, which are conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Through her graduate work at Brown – made all the more relevant by COVID-19 – Ali foresees a career one day in global health. According to her, “COVID-19 has highlighted health disparities not just in the Merrimack Valley or in the United States but also around the world. I hope one day to play a role in improving the situation.”

Leena Ali ’21 has broadened her horizons while a Merrimack student. She is grateful to the alumni, parents and friends of the College who through their financial support to The Merrimack Fund helped make her a “well-balanced human being.”

Hometown: Jedda, Saudi Arabia

Major: Health Sciences

Minor: Bioethics and Women’s and Gender Studies

Activities: Unity House Council & Interfaith Alliance

LEAD Award: Travis G. Kong Student Leadership Award