Three SBS Undergrads Honored as 21st Century Leaders
UMass Amherst recently honored the achievements, initiative, and leadership of three College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) students at Commencement 2023. Along with seven other undergraduates from across the campus, these students received the 21st Century Leaders Award given in recognition of their strong academic records, intellectual accomplishments, and exemplary work that brings prestige and honor to the University. Award recipients receive a $1,000 prize to celebrate their success.
Tasneem Kelly, of West Springfield, earned degrees in both operations and information management and political science, as well as a certificate in business analytics. Kelly has been an exceptional advocate for student engagement and inclusivity, making a lasting impact on the student community through her leadership and dedication.
Upon arriving at UMass, Kelly found her community in the Muslim Students Association (MSA). Eager to help others feel the same sense of belonging, she pursued a leadership role, ultimately becoming events coordinator on the MSA executive board. In this role, Kelly organized religious and social events to create a welcoming environment.
As the secretary of diversity, equity and inclusion of the Student Government Association (SGA), Kelly partnered with fellow leaders to successfully advocate for a permanent prayer space for Muslim students and expanded halal food options in the dining commons. Her dedication to promoting inclusivity reached new heights when she organized the university’s first-ever Multicultural Night, which brought together over 450 students in celebration of diversity and culture.
Kelly’s academic achievements include selection as a 2022 Fellow for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ SBS in DC program, a 2023 Fellow for UMass Women into Leadership, and induction into Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society. Following her graduation, she will join Grant Thornton LLP in Boston as a risk advisory analyst.
Shayan Raza, of Needham, a CHC student, double majored in legal studies and economics. Raza emerged as an exceptional leader, athlete and scholar at UMass, ultimately securing his place as student body president. In his first year, Raza competed for the debate society and powerlifting team, eventually serving on the executive board for both organizations. During his tenure, he helped transform the debate society into an internationally competitive program and led UMass Powerlifting to victory in its first Massachusetts Collegiate Cup. Raza claimed third place at the 2021 Massachusetts Powerlifting State Championship. Through his involvement in various Registered Student Organizations (RSOs), Raza became deeply invested in the Student Government Association (SGA). He oversaw the large-scale operation to move RSOs into the newly built Student Union, modernized the RSO application process and founded the SGA Equity Fund, a grant program that advances the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion mission.
As SGA president, Raza led the renewal of the litigation authority of the Student Legal Services Office and represented the Student Body on the search committee for a new chancellor. Under Raza's leadership, the SGA re-established a culture of social responsibility, inclusivity and excellence. Before attending law school, he will join Ropes & Gray LLP in Boston as a corporate program paralegal.
Sao Myat Thazin “Yuki” Thane, of Yangon, Myanmar, double majored in informatics and communication.
During the peak of the pandemic in her sophomore year, Thane was studying remotely from Myanmar. She was working full time as an English teacher and part time in a digital marketing internship when a February 2021 military coup brought social and economic chaos to the country. With access to the internet severely limited, she nevertheless completed her studies and maintained dean’s list-level grades.
Upon her return to campus, Thane was determined to raise awareness about Myanmar and build community. She helped found and became co-president of the first recognized Myanmar Student Association at UMass Amherst. Deeply involved in campus life, she wrote for the online magazine “Her Campus.” She was a peer mentor and undergraduate course assistant in the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences and worked in the college’s Office of Diversity and Inclusive Community Development. She was a robotics mentor for the UMass Massenberg STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Institute, teaching and organizing projects for middle school and high school students to enhance their interest in STEM. She won an alumni scholarship for her contributions to campus.
Thane has been accepted into the master’s degree program in business analytics at UMass Amherst.