Successful Path

As a resident assistant, Rutgers–New Brunswick senior Weis Baher answers a lot of questions and dispenses a lot of counsel to help students make the most of their time here.

Looking back on his own experience, Weis, a double major in English and planning and public policy in the School of Arts and Sciences and a Voorhees Fellow, might sum up the best advice as be open to the opportunities that come your way.


Why did you choose to attend Rutgers?

What attracted me most was the scale of it. How big it was. Because of that I knew I could find the resources and networks here for anything I’d possibly want to pursue.

How was your academic experience?

I came in knowing I wanted to major in English. I can’t say enough good things about the department here. The English program at Rutgers has phenomenal professors.

One class I enjoyed was called “American Realism and Naturalism,” taught by professor Brad Evans. Through the Aresty Research Center [for Undergraduates], I worked with Professor Evans on a project restoring In the Land of the Head Hunters, a silent film by Edward Curtis. It has helped document the practices of a Native American tribe and has had great anthropological value.

I tracked down and viewed other films of the era and was able to help conduct background research.

I thought I would just join a few groups and focus on courses, but as I got more involved I found it very rewarding.


—Weis Baher, English and planning and public policy double major

How about beyond your major?

I had enough advanced placement credits to fulfill some course requirements, so I could consider a second major. I explored a few courses that seemed interesting. One that sparked an interest was “Poverty in Developing Nations” with professor Meredeth Turshen.

Before, I had taken mostly humanities courses, so I didn’t have a strong policy or international affairs type of background. The course opened things up for me in that sense; I became really interested in the major. And since my family comes from an immigrant background, I could personally relate to a lot of the material we were studying in that class.

What have you done outside of academics?

Weis BaherI wanted to get more involved at the end of my freshman year, and the opportunity to be a resident assistant came up. I figured it would be a fun way to meet people, and it’s the type of job I would only have the chance to do while I was in college. I also saw it as a chance to gain some leadership skills and experience.

This is my third year on staff, and it’s worked out well. I’m still friends with many of the residents who were on my floors in previous years as well as people on staff.

I also ended up doing some summer work I found through an email from the residence life office. I worked with a company called American Education and Travel Services, which welcomed international high school students to the New York area. I took the students on excursions around Manhattan and helped them practice English.

This year, I’ve been interning with the Intersect Fund thanks to an opportunity provided by the Voorhees Fellowship. I’m helping to promote this program that guides and helps fund small local start-ups. We mostly do community service work involving microfinance and business training in New Brunswick.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’d like to continue studying policy, development, and urban planning within a few years after I graduate. Immediately after graduation, I’m looking to get some real-world experience in that field and start working. I’m open to anything intriguing that comes up.

In some ways, I think luck is when you see an opportunity and recognize it and move forward with it. It’s the choices you make. I hope I’ve done the best I could have.

Any advice for incoming students?

Well, you’re definitely not babied at Rutgers. You need to pull yourself up and get yourself going. At first it may seem difficult, but having to rely on yourself really does help you get on top of your responsibilities and gives you a sense of confidence.

I think that’s what freshman year is all about. Learning to manage your time, your finances. Stepping outside of your comfort zone. Meeting new people. By the end of that first year, I felt ready for anything else Rutgers could throw at me.

I think it’s good to place yourself where there are lots of opportunities, be open to them, follow those that intrigue you—and work hard.