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Nada Abuasi waves to friends and family at the College of Arts and Sciences Convocation on May 27.
At the age of 20, Nada Abuasi is the youngest person to earn a
bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware’s College of Arts and
Sciences this year. Fresh-faced and bespectacled, she could easily pass
for a high school student. But when Abuasi begins to speak, it’s clear
that this poised, articulate young woman is wise beyond her years. She
pursued a double major in political science and criminal justice and is
now weighing offers from two law schools for admission this fall.
Abuasi entered the University at age 16, due to skipping a grade when
she and her family moved to Delaware. “My dad was my math teacher and
he could tell that I was ready to move up a grade; I tested out of
She was admitted to UD via the Associate in Arts Program (AAP), an
experience that she still raves about. She earned her associate degree
at AAP in May 2020 before beginning studies for her bachelor’s at UD’s
Newark campus that fall. “Back in high school, I had seen fellow
students being told that if they didn’t get their act together, they’d
be forced to attend AAP. But I quickly learned that everything I had
heard about AAP was false,” said Abuasi.
“My first two years at the AAP in Wilmington offered me opportunities
I could never have imagined elsewhere. I met professors who saw a
future in me when others wouldn’t, who encouraged me to take on
challenges and find myself, whether in my writing or my activism,” she
added. “The AA Program made me feel like a college student who had
control, able to make her own decisions.”
One of the decisions Abuasi made while at AAP was to switch from
majoring in biochemistry and minoring in math to double majoring in
political science and criminal justice. “A lot of people in my family
are either in STEM fields or in education. But my mom and dad were very
supportive of my decision to study the humanities,” she said.
Politics, current events and activism were daily dinner-table
conversations for Abuasi, whose mother and father were born in Palestine
and where her extended family still lives. While still in the AA
program, she created Students for Justice in Palestine and served as the
group’s president, and later, on the Newark campus, she was on the
board of United Missions for Relief and Development. She also was active
in the Muslim Student Association, serving as its political liaison.
At United Missions, projects ranged from fundraising for global
relief efforts in the Middle East and Asia to helping organizations
closer to home, such as the Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington.
Though she doesn’t see herself a natural fundraiser, she and fellow club
members raised $14,000 in charitable contributions in one academic
When she wasn’t studying or participating in student organizations,
she worked part-time. Last summer, she did a research assistantship with
the UD anti-racism initiative, focusing on predecessor institutions of
the University and possible connections to slavery. Abuasi also is a
skilled painter, primarily working in oil and acrylics. Several of her
paintings were auctioned off for a United Missions for Relief and
Throughout her academic career, Abuasi sought out experiences inside
and outside the classroom that would challenge her, provoke her, and, at
times, make her uncomfortable. Case in point — she took a course
precisely because she disagreed with the ideology it covered. “I
despised feminism so I took Pascha Bueno-Hansen’s class called “Feminist
Political Theory” to see if I would still feel the same way after the
semester was over,” said Abuasi. “I learned a lot from Bueno-Hansen. And
in some respects, my opinions changed.”
Bueno-Hansen, an associate professor with a joint appointment in
Women and Gender Studies and Political Science, welcomed Abuasi’s
thoughtful analysis and the energy she brought to the classroom.
“Although Nada Abuasi may be young, she is one of the most mature and
intellectually driven students I have encountered at UD,” said
Bueno-Hansen. “Ms. Abuasi holds very clear personal and political
convictions that she communicates with great confidence. It was an honor
to have her in Feminist Political Theory as she raised the bar and
offered powerful contributions, especially in her brilliant and scathing
critique of feminist imperialism.”
For someone who “never says no to opportunities, especially if it’s
something I can learn from,” Abuasi is taking a rare break this summer.
She plans to relax and spend time with family, hopefully getting in a
trip to Palestine before law school. “Being the youngest in my classes
had its perks and also had its downsides,” she said. “But I wouldn’t
have done anything differently at UD, including my time in the AA
Program — it’s a gem.”
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Article by Margo McDonough; Photo by Andre Smith
Published June 24, 2022