MA '99, Student Personnel Administration
Fayyaz Vellani’s interest in higher education started when he was a freshman majoring in environmental studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. “My resident assistant was so nice, so welcoming. I was completely inspired by his work with college students.” As he headed into his senior year, he decided to be an RA, too. “I really enjoyed counseling other students,” he remembers. After graduating, Fayyaz decided to pursue his new found love of counseling and get a master's degree in student personnel administration.
His decision to leave Canada was easy – there were no higher education administration programs in country. But why New York City and why Steinhardt? “As a singer and songwriter (I play guitar and keyboard), I’ve always wanted to live in New York City and I did a lot of performing there.” Fayyaz sang at Earth Day in Battery Park City and at the Sidewalk Cafe in the East Village. “I had always wanted to attend NYU since I first visited New York as a teenager and saw the Washington Square campus,” he notes.
His masters courses included psychology, administration, and university finance. “Steinhardt mixes the theoretical and the practical. The program offered a broad range of classes, but also had a wonderful required internship program.” Fayyaz worked as a graduate assistant for the Steinhardt higher education department and interned at Marymount Manhattan College. Concerned particularly with the question of diversity, Fayyaz also took classes on such topics as equity in American education.
After getting his MA from NYU in 1999, Fayyaz then took a job as the Yale law school registrar. There, he was responsible for everything from course registration to student advising. “I loved the one-on-one advising, the daily interaction with students.” He also implemented the first online course registration program at Yale.
Fayyaz left Yale in 2001 to pursue a PhD at the University of London. His studies were fully paid for by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), an opportunity, he says, that was “too good to turn down.” There, he is studying social and cultural geography. “My PhD is related to higher education; my research examines how universities are responding to disability discrimination law. I am registered in geography, but my Ph.D. project encompasses both higher education administration and law.” Fayyaz expects to complete his degree in 2005.
Although busy with his studies, Fayyaz has continued working in higher education. He has just finished his first year as the director of admissions and financial aid at the University of Toronto. “At Yale, I was on the front lines with students. Now, I’m directing those people on the front lines. I work on broader policy issues.” He particularly enjoys developing and administering diversity policies. “I’m trying to get the people in my institution to understand what ‘access’ means. Disabled students shouldn’t just be accommodated, they should be included entirely.”
Upon finishing his PhD, Fayyaz will have to decide whether to stay in higher education administration or pursue an academic position in education, public policy, or social and cultural geography. At the moment, he is still unsure.
When asked what he remembers most about NYU, Fayyaz is overwhelmingly positive. “I couldn’t have gone anywhere else. The instructors were fantastic and the required field work was invaluable. I draw upon my studies every day in creating dynamic new programs here at the University of Toronto.”
Written by Clara Brenner