Leila Chatti

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Student Info

Graduation Year:
May 2011
East Lansing, Michigan

What have you done since graduating and where are you now?
I graduated in 2011 and immediately flew to California to begin Teach for America (immediately is no exaggeration - I missed the graduation ceremony!). I am currently in my second year of teaching at a charter school in Hayward. I teach 11th and 12th grade special education students, and I love it! When I'm not teaching, I am writing or performing here in the Bay. I was in a production of the Vagina Monologues in Oakland this past spring. I'm looking to apply to MFA programs in poetry for next year.

How did RCAH prepare you for what you're doing now?
I don't think any other program could have given me the variety of skills and depth of knowledge I now rely on. Perhaps most importantly, I learned through the RCAH how to question unjust systems and work with communities to change them. Through the RCAH, I was given opportunities to work in classrooms; I taught in an 8th grade English classroom for a year, and taught in Mali over a summer. Those experiences helped prepare me for my job as a special education teacher and literacy instructor in a low-income school. The RCAH has also helped me prepare for the future after this, as I hope to pursue an MFA in poetry. I was given guidance and opportunity in the RCAH to work on my poetry, and the Center for Poetry was an amazing thing to have so close by. Overall, the RCAH really led me to be an all-around strong reader, writer, communicator, and thinker.

What were your academic interests in RCAH?
Poetry and education! I also was interested in Arab/Middle Eastern studies; many of my research projects looked into current Arab American issues and experiences, as I myself am Arab. There was a lot of freedom to pursue the topics that interested us most.

What were your favorite aspects of the RCAH experience?
The teachers are phenomenal. They have so much to share with us, and they do it enthusiastically! I connected very closely with my professors. It's a rare thing to have your college professors e-mail you clips from a news article they thought you'd like, or send their thoughts and best wishes after a tragedy in your family or home country. The RCAH truly felt like family. Of course, another really wonderful aspect is the freedom with classes; each section of a course is different, so you can make your RCAH experience fit your interests. I wish I could have stayed enrolled at the RCAH for a decade!

Did you ever take part in Study Abroad/Study Away at MSU? If so, which programs?
Yes! I studied abroad in Mali, with the Ethics and Development program. We taught in a school in Kati. It was one of the most significant events of my life. If you have the chance, you should sign up--trust me.

What words of wisdom do you have for current RCAH students?
Absorb all that you can, but question as well! Try to participate in the workshops the RCAH runs, and if there's a visiting artist, go say hello. Know that you will be just fine after you graduate, even if it's occasionally challenging to explain your degree name. ;) You are getting a wonderful education from people who truly care about you. Enjoy the ride; you'll miss it when it's over.