Muslim Chaplain Office of the University Chaplain
How long have you been at Penn?
Rashad has worked at Penn since January of 2013. A Penn alumna, she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2000, part of a graduating class that included University Chaplain Charles “Chaz” Howard. The two remained friends, and when she contacted him about doing mental health awareness work in faith communities on campus, he asked her if she would serve as Muslim Chaplain.
“When Chaz asked me to consider this role, how could I say no to an opportunity to serve alongside my friend and brother? To be of support to some of the brightest young people of my community? Of course I said yes.”
Why were you interested in returning to Penn as an employee?
“Being back on campus—and even reflecting on my own undergraduate experience—I see the value of having someone from my faith community to not just specifically offer spiritual/religious guidance, but just affirmation of the desire to adhere closely to the principles you were raised with, or even just exploring what it means to now be an adult in your religious community.”
What do you do as Muslim Chaplain?
“I think the major responsibility—what has been most important for me—is to really connect with the Muslim Student Association as their adviser. They’re very autonomous with an independently functioning board, and they’ve done a good job of managing some of the activities. I think particularly now, over the last five years, with the rise of anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamophobia, I see my role as an adviser and a guide for them, but also serving as a nurturing figure for the students. More administratively, I serve as a resource on Islam and Muslims.”
Do students come to you with religious/spiritual issues, or academic issues, or both?
“Because my background is mental health [she is the founder of the Muslim Wellness Foundation], I think it lends itself very nicely to the work I do as Chaplain because [students] have typical academic stress, social stress, but I think for this generation, it really is about identity. What does it mean to be a practicing Muslim and to be American, and to be of South Asian descent or to be of African descent? How am I going to integrate all of those identities, especially in a world that says that those things are contradictory?”
What is the favorite part of your job?
“I love working with young people. I think they offer such originality, thoughtfulness, passion, and creativity that I feel keeps me alive in terms of what it means to be an American Muslim. When I see them—as corny as it may sound—this is the future of my community, so how could I not be invested in making sure they have everything they need?”