ASU New College graduate aims to serve persecuted minorities

Friday, December 7, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates

Ileen Younan is carrying the weight of history on her shoulders. Originally from Midland, Texas, she is inspired by her Assyrian roots to serve her community. The Assyrian genocide during World War I devastated and scattered the remaining community away from their homeland of northern Iraq.

Younan connected with her culture through the Assyrian Student Association of Arizona while she pursued her English degree at the ASU’s West campus. She said the close-knit community of New College was perfect for cultivating her educational and professional interests.

“I never lacked any opportunity,” she said.

Younan’s pursuits proved to be well-rounded: She was involved with TRIO, the EARTH club, Canyon Voices Literary Magazine and the Arizona Legislative Internship Program, just to name a few. She also loved analyzing literature with her classmates. Before she starts at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in the fall, she’s working on her writing portfolio, which includes scripts, fiction and more.

After earning her law degree, Younan wants to honor her history as well as the skills and knowledge she has cultivated to give back.

“I hope to acquire a job as a state prosecutor and serve my community well,” she said.

She ultimately wants to do nongovernmental work to help Assyrians and other persecuted minorities.

“Educated Assyrians can help those in their homeland, so that the entire people may move forward,” she said.

As she closes the chapter on the first part of her Sun Devil journey, Younan talked with ASU Now about how she’s reflecting on her field and her experience thus far.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: After completing my first year at ASU, I decided to focus more on self-improvement instead of only looking at a career end-goal. The English major was the best choice, because it would allow me to develop my writing, speaking and presentation skills all while hearing different perspectives as I’d analyze literature with other students.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: It’s important to look at tasks and goals from an interdisciplinary perspective. With my major in particular, I learned to make sure my writing would be rooted in reality and also to look at what I read from different perspectives in order to create various possible interpretations.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU has numerous opportunities for undergraduate students to get involved, and the campus culture is exceedingly inclusive. A student is not just another number, they’re a part of a family. The professors also care about their students and are enthusiastic about the subjects they teach, so ASU seemed like an ideal place to learn and develop my skill set.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I’d say all the English professors at ASU’s New College taught me the same important lesson: to be enthusiastic about any text I read and to outline well so that I won’t be stressed when writing a final paper. This advice has served me well and helped me manage my time more wisely.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Students should not compare themselves to others all the time and instead focus on improving themselves. There’s also no such thing as being completely productive, no matter how well a person plans their day. It’s not a bad thing for students to rest and give themselves a little credit for their hard work. In fact, it’s a must in order to avoid burning out.

Q:  What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus would be a tie between Fletcher Library, which offers a great, quiet space to study, and the TRIO Student Support Services STEM office, where fun events are always around the corner.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m graduating a semester early and was accepted to ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, so my intent is to secure temporary employment until school starts. I’d also like to update my writing portfolio.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would create a program centered around helping the displaced Assyrian population of the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq. Assyrians are a Christian ethnic minority considered indigenous to Iraq. However, since the devastation caused by ISIS, thousands of Assyrians have been forced out of their homes and have fled the area in order to avoid religious persecution.