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Najila Ahsan’s Quest to Change the World

Editor's Note: This profile is part of a series that features the stories of more than a dozen graduates whose outstanding journeys have culminated in a UMGC degree.

Liz Connolly-Bauman
By Liz Connolly-Bauman
  • Commencement |
  • News

Najila Ahsan has crossed the finish line. She received her diploma during the weekend commencement at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), taking her one step toward her dream of making a difference on the climate front.

Ahsan, who took part in UMGC’s Grad Walk on Friday, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management. After the New Year, she begins a job as a town planner in Maryland. She will act as an advisor for municipal planning and land use in the town of Emmitsburg.

“I’ve always been interested in architecture but realized that manufactured environments also destroy the natural environment. It is important for us to come up with ways to reduce impact, like human impact on the environment,” Ahsan said, explaining why she chose to major in environmental management. “And that could be done by modifying our fabricated environment in a way that’s sustainable.”

Ahsan transferred to UMGC in 2020 after experiencing some health problems. She said UMGC was a perfect fit, offering the flexibility that enabled her to also focus on her health. Although most classes at UMGC are virtual or hybrid, she found a way to connect with classmates who shared her interest in combating climate change. Ahsan joined the events committee of UMGC’s Environmental Awareness Club and planned a live green building tour of Holabird Academy, a LEED-certified school in Baltimore.

LEED, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the world’s most widely used green building rating system.

Last spring, Ahsan assisted Sabrina Fu, program director and collegiate professor of UMGC’s Environmental Science and Management Program, in organizing an Earth Day webinar. The event was titled “Investing in Our Planet—and Each Other,” and Ahsan moderated one of the breakout sessions.

She volunteered this past spring with the Neighborhood Design Center in Hyattsville, Maryland. This past summer Ahsan interned with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.

“I got to work on multiple projects and all of them related to the county’s climate action plan,” she said. “One of the projects involved engaging with internal stakeholders within other departments of Montgomery County to come up with a list of things that can be done to increase carbon sequestration.”

Ahsan looks forward to her new career as a town planner and, eventually, pursuing a master’ degree in design. She is grateful for a supportive husband and “the life-changing experience” she received at UMGC.

“I really liked how UMGC catered to my learning experience, offered flexibility and the professors were so helpful and accommodating,” she said.