UC Berkeley School of Law student Noor Hasan was pleasantly surprised when she received a $20,000 scholarship from Sallie Mae during her final interview with the company.
Hasan, a first-year graduate student, was in Newton, Massachusetts, participating in what she thought was the final interview for Sallie Mae’s Bridging the Dream Scholarship for Graduate Students, when company representatives and her mother came out with balloons and a large check to support her graduate studies in law.
“It was so incredible; it was such a rush,” Hasan said.
Originally from Skokie, Illinois, Hasan received her bachelor’s degree in English, legal studies and Asian American studies from Northwestern University in 2014.
Prior to coming to Berkeley Law, Hasan worked as a diversity and inclusion strategist at the insurance company Allstate, where she designed one of the first transgender education programs.
“There were some employees that had come forward who identified as transgender and wanted support from the diversity and inclusion department in helping them come out to their teams and their managers,” Hasan said. “At the time, we had no programs to help them.”
As the youngest diversity strategist of a Fortune 100 company, Hasan’s work on the transgender education program did not go unnoticed by other companies in the industry. According to Hasan, the program gained a lot of attention and notoriety among other companies that faced similar opportunities to promote inclusion and support their own transgender employees.
Hasan said her interests are in business law and the study of race in law, and in the future, she hopes to be a law professor with a concentration on critical race theory.
“I would say to all students who are struggling to decide on whether to go to graduate school or not, to think really critically about the decision and search for opportunities for aid, because one day, you might be surprised,” Hasan said.
Sallie Mae, a company that offers student loans for undergraduate and graduate studies, conducted a national study titled “How America Pays for Graduate School,” according to spokesperson Rick Castellano. The study found that a majority of graduate students believe an advanced degree is the new standard minimum for any professional occupation.
The study also found that many graduate students were not aware of scholarship opportunities and wanted increased access to scholarships specific to graduate studies.
In response, Sallie Mae recently launched a graduate school scholarship search tool to help graduate students find scholarships to support their studies, with a database of more than 850,000 available scholarships.
“Law school and grad school are prohibitively expensive,” Hasan said. “Need-based aid is pretty much entirely unavailable to law schools.”
The scholarship received more than 3,400 applicants and was awarded to four winners, including Hasan.
Applicants wrote about the people who influenced them to pursue a graduate degree and advice they would have given to themselves as college freshmen. The winners of the scholarship were selected based on their unique journeys to graduate school and their focuses on improving their communities.
“(Hasan’s) work on diversity and inclusion is impressive,” Castellano said. “It’s also an admirable cause, and I’m excited to see what she’s going to do next.”