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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Heart of Service Lasts a Lifetime

English+and+Communication%2C+2003

English and Communication, 2003

Heather Dawood has been volunteering for as long as she can remember. She helps wherever needed: from crime watch, to food pantries, and even to the Pan-Mass Challenge bike race.
This year, she is a captain for one of the bike race teams, the Nancy Reagan Gulliver Chain Gang. She is organizing and encouraging volunteers to ride and financially support research for multiple sclerosis in Massachusetts. She brought her passion for service to the University of Massachusetts Boston, got involved in student life, became a student leader, and the connections she made by serving UMass Boston students propelled her into a career in banking. 
“I got here through my experience at UMass,” Dawood said. “As a student, I was pretty active on campus through clubs, but then became involved in the Student Senate and eventually was elected to be Student Trustee. Through that experience, one of the Trustees mentored me and I came to work at Citizens Bank after graduation.” 
Now, Dawood works in Treasury Solutions at Citizens Bank. The details of her job sound rather tedious, involving commercial banking and purchase programs for mid-market clients (like hospitals). She helps large institutions make transactions. She worked her way through a variety of positions at Citizens, managed a team across the entire footprint of the organization, and most recently, designed a credit program for her clients. 
Over the phone from her office, Dawood had one piece of advice for students:
“I recommend for students to get to know the administrators in Student Life. People like Donna Neal and Joyce Morgan helped me to understand how I could get more out of my academic experience than simply going to class. Don’t always rush on and off campus. Spend a little time understanding how much UMass Boston has to offer.” 
Dawood’s journey through higher education began on the highway during a commute to work. 
“On my way to work one morning, I turned around and made a decision that I was going to make changes and get myself back to school. I applied to UMass Boston.” 
It was the best option for her in terms of location. 
“My first semester I was not matriculated, and I ended up getting what was left over for courses.” 
She always looked for ways to connect with other students. At the time, UMass Boston was completely a commuter school with a slightly older student body. She found a community by hanging out in the cafe that used to be in Wheatley Hall. 
“It was through that social environment at the Wits End where I built relationships with classmates and found myself getting involved with the Student Senate.” 
She went from being a Student Senator to the president of the Student Senate, and then from there, she ran for the Trustee position. 
“The following year, I was elected Student Trustee. I had an experience that was probably as close to living on campus as I could.” 
Through the Student Senate, Dawood connected with members of all the clubs and centers on campus. 
“Those relationships have carried on in my life outside of UMass Boston. One of my favorite programs was the Beacon Leadership Program. We were given mentors and we met regularly. I was able to run a breast cancer awareness campaign on campus [through BLP].” 
Through organizing this community event, Dawood brought health care professionals to a panel along with a breast cancer survivor who was a student, and also a student who lost a family member to breast cancer. The panel got a lively dialogue going about what receiving a cancer diagnosis is like and the importance of early diagnosis. 
“We also had the health care professionals on campus giving lessons on how to do self-examinations, scheduling appointments to come in and have private lessons. It was a monumental experience for me as well as for other students, all in just bringing breast cancer awareness onto campus.” 
The list of professors that impacted Dawood is long. Mark Schlesinger, who headed up the communication program, taught her the value of modern communication techniques. He lead a class through internet forums and discussion boards. 
The very first class she took was a 300 level art history class with Paul Tucker. 
“I was discouraged because I hadn’t built that foundation for 
studying yet, so I failed miserably. I went to him, and exposed my vulnerabilities and fears, and he took the time to help me to build confidence in the knowledge that I had been taking away from the lectures, and to build out my study skills, and to tap into my own passion and interest in art history.” 
“The greatest thing that I learned is to set your sights high, ask for help, and recognize the value of perseverance. The opportunities to be successful in achieving your goals are available to anyone at UMass Boston.” 
Dawood returns to campus occasionally. 
“I visited a couple of times. My most recent experience was this past summer when I did the Multiple Sclerosis Boston to Cape Cod bicycle ride, and UMass Boston hosted the starting line for what turned out to be a 160-mile bike ride.” 
Considering all of the current construction, Dawood remembers being part of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Campus Center. 
“I dug a shovel into the ground as the Student Trustee. Going back and visiting that facility, it’s just so impressive and it makes me proud. It’s wonderful that the Commonwealth is investing money to beautify the campus to match the academic potential that it presents, so it’s not just beautiful from the inside out, but it’s beautiful to look at from the outside in as well.”