What's Jamal Ahamad's formula for success in college? It's really quite simple:
1. Go to class.
2. Work hard.
3. Get to know your professors and ask them questions: they will help you along the way.
4. Take what you learn in class and continue to discuss it.
5. Don't wait to apply to your life what you've learned.
6. Be interested.
7. Be an active participant in your education.
"I'm always working hard. I'm always taking what I've learned in the classroom and taking it beyond," Ahamad said. "Often, you see people just go to class and they don't ever talk about what they do there afterwards. It's just to get a grade or to burn off time until they figure out what they have to do with their lives. I'm actually trying to take what's given to me and put it to use immediately."
His professors are both his friends and his mentors.
"I can't even count how many times getting to know a professor got me through their class because it was a topic I didn't understand or a project I didn't know how to tackle," he explained. "They teach you how to take an interest and apply them to academics. In high school, especially coming where I was from, we didn't get a chance to do that."
Ahamad, of Brooklyn, N.Y., is a senior majoring in English, with a concentration in writing and a minor in arts management. He arrived on campus in with his high school friends and classmates, Justin Vanderpoole and Jameek Clovie. The three decided to come to MCLA together because they wanted a place where they could "branch out."
"We just fell in love with the place. It was totally different from what we were used to. It was a break from the fast-paced life," Ahamad explained. "Where I was from, I didn't fit in. Being a kid, what you really want to do is fit in and you don't learn how to be an individual until you break out of wanting to fit in. I was a nerd. I dressed differently than other kids. I pretty much stayed at home and just studied.
"Then I got to college and wanted to express myself and explore what I wanted to explore," he continued. "When I came to MCLA, the opportunities just revealed themselves."
At first, Ahamad thought he wanted to be a teacher. "But I realized that the arts have always been a part of my daily life. I just didn't know how to make a living out of it. Arts management gave me the opportunity that I needed."
Because of the flexibility within the arts management major and the variety of disciplines within the field, he was able to customize his education to include his love of dance.
"When you look at this area, there are a lot of visual arts. For me being a dancer and loving dance so much, I'm trying to set some groundwork for others who like dance. I feel like a pioneer," Ahamad said. "I'm very glad that I picked this college. The best thing about MCLA is the opportunity and that it's a small college. Because it's small, so many opportunities present themselves."