Student Spotlight: Haleema Aslam '25

May 22, 2024

Psychology and Entrepreneurship

Swearer Engagement:
Laidlaw Scholar

A Laidlaw Scholar with the Swearer Center, Haleema Aslam  ‘25, is currently studying Psychology and Entrepreneurship as a RUE (Resumed Undergraduate Education) student at Brown. In early March, she delivered the first talk at TEDxBrownU’s ninth annual conference, titled “Liberation Through Education,” where she shared the inspirational role education has played in her life, discussing “her journey from 15-year-old child bride to Brown student.” 

Through her work beyond the TEDxBrownU conference, Aslam emphasizes the transformative potential of equitable access to education and other vital resources, applying a mental health lens to her scholarship. As part of her work with The Laidlaw Scholars Leadership and Research Program this summer, Aslam spent the past summer collaborating on a project titled "Using Research to Inform Brown's Engagement with Providence and Rhode Island.” Led by Vice President for Community Engagement and Stark Family Executive Director of the Swearer Center, Mary Jo Callan, the research team is headed by Bonner Fellowship alum Aaron Castillo and comprised of Aslam and two other Laidlaw Scholars, Ellie Morvatz ‘25 and Kayla Morrison ‘26. 

By gathering and analyzing publicly available community- and neighborhood-level data from community partners in Providence and Rhode Island, peers at Brown University, and existing data from the Swearer Center, Morrison notes that the project explores how the University “can better engage and give back to the surrounding community.”

Sharing more about the data collection process, Aslam particularly appreciates the interviews she conducted with campus and community partners and the connections she made through them. 

She explains, “I chose this project because it's in Providence, and to me, Providence feels like home. And so I really wanted to learn about how the educational system works. Brown is such a big institution, and I was always curious how brown maintains its relationship with the local community.” Reflecting on her academic journey and education advocacy work, Aslam shares, “With my own struggles and being where I am today, how I came from and how it all started,  I was wonder how to make even education accessible to not just students who come from backgrounds where they might be able to afford it, but locally. Through this research, I want to understand how things work on a bigger scale with the university and how to make this bigger institute more accessible to the local community.”

The interviews Aslam conducted for the project offered a unique opportunity for connection, which Aslam readily harnessed. Katie Doyle, Managing Director at the Annenberg Institute, connected with Aslam soon after the project began and they have maintained a lasting mentorship and friendship. 

Doyle particularly appreciates Aslam’s authentic approach, saying, “Haleema was able to consolidate what I was talking about and the answers that I was giving. She drew connections to other work she knew about in the community to work on campus. I was struck by what a terrific listener she is and how thoughtful she was about the content.” 

Doyle illustrates the impact of Aslam’s interviewing skills: "She communicates like she's heard what's important to them; she is so reciprocal in her relationships. What differentiates a leader from somebody who just has a collection of relationships is this thicker connection, developing this sort of reciprocal back-and-forth connection with people. [Haleema’s relationships] keep growing because she contributed so much to them.”

Through her experience with the Laidlaw program and cohort members, Aslam emphasizes that “the Laidlaw program is all about leadership.” Describing the lessons and workshops she valued most, she says, “We had to really reflect on what leadership means to me personally. I worked with some of the values I would like to gain or improve. Throughout my research, I would go back to thinking of the data program and how it's about leadership. What does it mean to me to be a leader? To me, it means being a fair person and treating people equally. Listening to others and really understanding where they come from.”

Aslam will spend her next Leadership in Action summer working at RIDE (Rhode Island Department of Education). Aslam’s work will center on a K-12 Postsecondary Pathways project aligned with RIDE’s participation in the Launch Years Initiative from the Dana Center, which focuses on math pathways from high school to university. Under the supervision of the Associate Chief of Staff for Instructional Programs and in collaboration with the Executive Associate for State Strategy and Student Opportunity,  Aslam will research and conduct a landscape analysis, develop and administer interview protocols and support co-planning meetings. She will also engage in partner outreach and data synthesis, contributing to RIDE’s goal of implementing secondary regulations.

Watch Haleema's TEDxBrownU talk here and learn more about getting involved with Swearer Center programs here.