An Interview with Baccalaureate Speaker Khirad Siddiqui

Khirad Siddiqui, a graduating senior in the Department of Applied Psychology, serves as the president of the Applied Psychology Undergraduate Club and the editor-in-chief of OPUS (Online Publication of Undergraduate Studies). For the past two years, she has worked at the Leadership Initiative and the Graduate School of Arts and Science through NYU’s Presidential Internship Program. She is also a Peer Supervisor on the Metro Center’s ROSES (Resilience, Opportunity, Safety, Education, Strength) team, and also served as a juvenile justice advocate, a position that sparked the topic of her honors thesis. Upon graduation, Khirad will pursue a doctorate in criminology, law, and society at the University of California, Irvine as a Eugene Cota-Robles fellow.

Khirad Siddiqui

When you arrived at NYU, did you know what you wanted to study?

While I came into my first year at NYU with a lot of uncertainty, I knew that I had made the correct choice in my major almost immediately. I’ve since shifted my focus from counseling to the pursuit of criminal-justice research, but the core principles of social justice and service to others have remained the same. While I’m grateful to have had the flexibility to take classes outside of my major, many of which allowed me to specify my field of study for graduate school, psychology has been a guiding and integral framework throughout my learning.

Khirad Siddiqui (far right) with NYU’s Presidential interns




What sparked your interest in the juvenile-justice system. 

My interest in the juvenile-justice system comes from my interest in criminal-justice more broadly. Early on in my time at NYU, I watched a documentary called “13th” on mass incarceration, and became determined to work on criminal-justice reform in any way that I could. That’s when I became involved in the ROSES (Resilience, Opportunity, Safety, Education, Strength) research team, which has been one of the defining experiences in my time at NYU. I started off as a juvenile justice advocate, where I worked on three interventions for girls in the juvenile-justice system over the course of ten to twelve weeks each. Since then, I’ve honed my own focus in criminal-justice reform to focus on religious rights within prisons, but those initial experiences were fundamental in introducing me to the scope of the issue and the kinds of change that people within NYU are working to create. 

Your honors thesis is on the justifications that parents offer when they file legal allegations against their children.  I know this is a broad question, but what have you learned from your research?

I’ve learned so much from the experience of conducting my honors thesis! There are the technical skills that I can take with me in my future career, like how to work with a large database, run analyses, and write empirical articles, but more importantly, this process has introduced me to an issue I had no idea existed. I started off my honors thesis thinking that I might work with the sample of legal petitions that the R.O.S.E.S. lab had access to, but it wasn’t until I searched through existing literature that I learned that the rate of parents who file status-offense allegations against their children was so high. Reading about how this initial charge can act as a pathway into the legal system and often lead to sustained system-involvement was troublesome, as was reading through all of those legal petitions myself and seeing the subjectivity of these charges. While I’m grateful for the skills I took from this experience, I think it’s the ability to tie my scholarship back to those social justice principles and to spread awareness on what I’ve read that I’m truly appreciative of.

Khirad Siddiqui (center) with Opus co-editors, Rachel Lim and Alexa Montemayor (l-r).

You were a peer supervisor for Metro Center’s ROSES team, what was that like for you?

After my third intervention as a Juvenile Justice Advocate, I became a Peer Supervisor on ROSES and I’ve been working in that role for the past semester. It has been a really wonderful experience getting to train a new cohort of advocates and helping them through the same kinds of issues that came up in my interventions. I also feel incredibly lucky to work with such amazing peers, especially the other supervisors at R.O.S.E.S. who care deeply about the goals of the team. It’s been a wonderful way to close out my experiences on a research team that means so much to me before I graduate.

Who were your mentors at NYU?

I remember hearing once that instead of relying on one mentor, everybody should have a kind of “board of mentors,” with multiple people from different areas of their life offering strategic guidance. While I didn’t ever intentionally put together my own board, I’ve been lucky enough to have received invaluable mentorship from so many people in my time at NYU that I know I’ll be leaving some out of this response.

My very first semester, I took a class on Modern Art taught by Professor Jennifer Kabat, who was an amazing mentor that helped me hone my writing, and later published an article of mine on her online publication. I’ll never forget how she checked in on a clearly lost freshman who was struggling to adjust, and I’ll always appreciate it.

Through the Presidential Internship Program, I worked with the NYU Leadership Initiative in my junior year, and I can safely cite the entire staff of that office as personal and professional mentors of mine, especially Bethany Godsoe, Grisel Caicedo, and Jenni Quilter. This past year I’ve worked with the Graduate School of Arts and Science for the same internship program, and the Assistant Dean for Students, Aida Gureghian, has been a crucial mentor who has helped me in the process of applying to graduate programs.

Through my work on ROSES, I’ve been guided by Dr. Shabnam Javdani, who is also my incredibly supportive faculty mentor for my honors thesis. In the Applied Psychology department, there are countless faculty, staff, and administrators that have given me advice at crucial moments, such as Amanda Holda, who advises the club that I am President of and constantly helps me with even my smallest issues. I’m grateful to all of them and the many other members of my “board of mentors” for their guidance and help throughout these past four years, and for really shaping my experience at NYU.