Winter Commencement 2023 -Sonya Sanie, College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences
When Sonya Sanie came to Radford University, she knew she wanted to make a difference in the lives of others.
Originally from Fairfax, Virginia, Sanie decided to major in political science, using her educational opportunities to focus on solving “Wicked Problems” – complex issues that do not have a clear solution.
For Sanie, these issues carry a personal significance.
“I come from Afghan refugees,” Sanie said. “My entire life, I’ve seen my family members go through things, and I haven’t been able to help them due to several factors, so I want to help people any way that I possibly can.”
Sanie’s firsthand experience inspired her to tackle important global problems and work toward positive change.
Last summer, Sanie was invited to participate in a research fellowship by Professor Tay Keong Tan, director of international studies. Sanie’s research into wicked problems landed her a chance to present to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education (UNPRME) at a conference In Lisbon, Portugal, along with four other Radford University students, last October.
Sanie chose to focus on zoonosis – animal-borne diseases that can be transmitted to humans – after experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to help understand how and why pandemics originate.
“When I presented … I was so nervous,” Sanie said. “But I was able to calm myself and do as best as I could, and I got a lot of positive feedback, not only from my team but from the UNPRME as well.”
Sanie credits her professors and connections on campus with helping her achieve her educational goals. In particular, she cites Professor Paige Tan, director of the wicked problems program at Radford, as a source of guidance during her time in college.
“I have to give a really big shout-out to Dr. Paige Tan,” Sanie said. “She has been a very big help for me; she’s always supported me and been there whenever I needed someone. Dr. Tay Keong Tan has [also] been a very big help for me.”
Sanie has worked to develop the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences’ annual Wicked Festival, where students present their research on wicked problems to the Radford community.
“I’ve actually been a part of the Wicked Festival since it first started, Sanie said. “I helped Dr. Paige Tan organize it, and I knew that students were benefiting because I benefited a lot.”
For Sanie, exploring the topics she is passionate about while working alongside dedicated professors was a chance to inspire and engage others while developing her professional skills.
“The wicked initiatives have really helped me develop my critical thinking and presentation skills, as well as my confidence in myself and my own abilities,” Sanie said. “It’s nice to see that the university has implemented something extremely special into its curriculum.”