Graduating public health major finds a home in La Salle’s diverse community

May 3, 2022

Asiyah Jones

As a Black Muslim woman, Asiyah Jones, ’22, wanted to feel welcomed on her college campus. Becoming an Explorer made that a reality.

A Muslim Student Association breast cancer awareness event reminded Asiyah Jones, ’22, of La Salle University’s welcoming community.

Walking through Hansen Quad, she saw students of all backgrounds wearing pink head scarves in support of cancer patients. A small gesture, she acknowledged, but for Jones—a Black Muslim student who wears a hijab—it conjured a feeling of belonging.

This acceptance of all people, regardless of their background, is what led the Philadelphia native to pursue her degree at La Salle, from which she graduates this year.

“I really wanted to go to a university that was small, so I could get to know my professors and classmates,” she explained. “Out of majority of the schools I did visit, La Salle was more diverse in the sense that, walking around as a Black Muslim female, I didn’t feel abnormal. The friendly, family-like environment is what made me comfortable. It’s a huge reason why I not only stayed all four years of my undergraduate degree, but why I am now finishing up graduate school here.”

Jones is completing the five-year public health program at La Salle, in which she will have earned a Master of Public Health degree.

“La Salle to me means growth. This was the place where I have been able to see myself grow into early adulthood and do so many things that my younger teenage self would have never thought I’d do.”

– Asiyah Jones

Jones’ journey at La Salle began in another program before she “quickly fell in love” with public health after an introductory-level course.

“Honestly,” she said, “it may not have been the plan, but I enjoyed learning about public health so much that it was an easy decision to continue.”

Working in public health opens a variety of avenues through which she can serve her community, Jones said. She enjoys working with youth toward creating a new generation of leaders and identifying the needs of Philadelphians.

Following graduation, she will work for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Philadelphia. Jones began working for CAIR as a student. In her newly created role, as youth leadership and advocacy projects coordinator, she has more involvement in community relations and youth development with the organization.

Support from La Salle’s Public Health faculty, she said, has been the most rewarding component of her experience.

“Asiyah has been a delight to work with,” said Candace Robertson-James, DrPH, MPH, assistant professor and director of the Master of Public Health Program. “She is a hardworking student who truly takes advantage of every opportunity she is afforded. She connects well with faculty and her peers. She is a leader and has taken courses in the core and electives which have allowed her to continue to build skills and enhance her competitiveness. We are so proud of the work she has completed as part of her practicum with Council Member Isaiah Thomas’ office and capstone research. I have no doubt she will be successful and contribute much to the field of public health.”

The close-knit feeling of the public health program was a supportive learning environment for Jones, who said the faculty and students really knew each other and felt like a second family.

“The faculty really helped me with opening my eyes to a new field that I came to love more and more, and seeing how passionate they were about what they taught was great,” she said.

“La Salle to me means growth,” she added. “This was the place where I have been able to see myself grow into early adulthood and do so many things that my younger teenage self would have never thought I’d do.”

— Meg Ryan