Religious Studies Students Honored for Outstanding Achievements

The Department of Religious Studies at Michigan State University recently held its 2024 Undergraduate Symposium and Awards Presentation, which shined a spotlight on undergraduate research and the outstanding achievements of its students.  

Six of those students – Hady Omar, Shawn Sandhu, Noah Sanker, Kaitlyn Sears, Moaid Shaik, and Mustafa Syed – presented their Religious Studies research during the event, which took place April 5. 

Three photos cropped together of people smiling.
From left to right, Hady Omar, Mustafa Syed and Moaid Shaik

Omar, Shaik, and Syed also were honored with Department of Religious Studies Awards. The following are the awards they won:

  • Hady Omar – Robert T. Anderson Award, which recognizes a senior who has achieved the highest-grade point average. This award honors former Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, Robert T. Anderson. 
  • Moaid Shaik – Nick Rashford and Jake Foglio All-University Award for Excellence, which acknowledges the accomplishments of exceptional students and is given to students who may be seeking a graduate education. 
  • Mustafa Syed – Engaged Scholar Award, recognizes a Religious Studies undergraduate major who best represents the ideal of the engaged scholar and whose aspirations are to serve the wider community. 

Robert T. Anderson Award  

Hady Omar is graduating in Spring 2024 with majors in both Religious Studies and Human Biology. He also is an Honors College graduate and recipient of the 2024 Board of Trustees Award for having maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout his entire undergraduate education.

Four people
Hady Omar (second from left) receives the Robert T. Anderson Award from Amy DeRogatis (far left), Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, Morgan Shipley (second from right), Associate Professor of Religious Studies, and Shreena Gandhi (far right), Assistant Professor of Religious Studies.

Omar has served as President of the Arab Cultural Society since 2021 and is an academic coach and teaching assistant for the Charles Dew Program. He has volunteered and translated for the Refugee Development Center, served as Vice President for Student Allocations for the Associates Students of MSU for two years, and was the Community Outreach Chair and Treasurer for the Refugee Outreach Collective from 2020 to 2023. 

The Robert T. Anderson Award is given to the graduating Religious Studies senior with the highest GPA. Omar said he was thankful to win the award after much academic rigor in his undergraduate studies.

“Grades are really important to me, but so too is being involved,” he said. “The work ethic that comes from years of undergraduate work is what pushed me to make sure I do the best I can.”

Nick Rashford and Jake Foglio All-University Award for Excellence 

Moaid Shaik is a junior double majoring in both Religious Studies and Neuroscience. He is the Vice President of Delta Epsilon Mu and has been a McLaren Hospice Volunteer since 2022, Mother Teresa Hospice Volunteer since 2023, Student Emergency Response Team Treasurer from 2022 to 2024, and a Direct Support Professional for Origami Rehabilitation, Beaumont Hospital Volunteer, Friendship Circle Volunteer, and Adaptive Sports Volunteer.

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Moaid Shaik (center) receives the Nick Rashford and Jake Foglio All-University Award for Excellence from Morgan Shipley (left), Associate Professor of Religious Studies, and Amy DeRogatis (right), Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

His research is inspired by his brother, who has cerebral palsy.

“My brother is one of my main inspirations,” he said. “When I was growing up, I was frustrated and anxious to know why my brother wasn’t like other people. I reached out to communities, doctors, and my parents to help me understand my brother’s situation.”

Shaik is currently applying to medical schools and hopes to be an orthopedic surgeon.

Engaged Scholar Award

Mustafa Syed is graduating in Summer 2024 with a B.A. in Religious Studies. He originally came to MSU to earn a business degree but left to start his own shoe company, called REZA, which is recognized globally. 

While traveling in Taiwan and China for his business, Syed became so interested in religion that he decided to come back to Michigan State University to finish his degree in Religious Studies.

three people
Mustafa Syed (center) received the Engaged Scholar Award from Amy DeRogatis (left), Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, and Morgan Shipley (left), Associate Professor of Religious Studies.

Syed’s journey exemplifies an entrepreneurial spirit and academic inquiry, fostering a deeper appreciation for global human connections. His work showcases a narrative that religious studies and entrepreneurship are intertwined and shows a broader understanding of diversity.

“I feel so much support from the entire MSU community,” he said. “The entire Religious Studies Department has so much love and devotion to their undergraduate students. I’m really grateful, especially as a unique student.”