Q&A with SBS Ambassador and History, MENAS, and Arabic Major

April 14, 2023
Karissa Bowers in Jordan

Karissa Bowers in Jordan

Karissa Bowers, a senior from Tucson, Ariz., is triple majoring in History, Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and Arabic. An Honors student, Karissa participated in the Arizona Arabic Flagship Program and works as a student assistant in the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships on campus. In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to musicals, and watching sitcoms.

As she prepares to graduate this spring, Karissa reflects on why she chose her major, her favorite part of being an SBS Ambassador, and her advice for future Wildcats.

Q. Why did you decide to attend the University of Arizona and major in History, MENAS, and Arabic?

Karissa Bowers

Karissa Bowers

I’m from Tucson and I really love it here. When considering which school to go to, it became important to me to stay close to family at this period in my life. UA is a really good school and both my brothers had gone there and had great experiences. That, combined with really great scholarship offerings, is what made me decide to come.

I knew I was interested in history when I came to the University, but I was originally planning to pursue medical school and minor in biochem. But in my first semester, I was taking bio and history and I cared about history so much more. I decided to fully commit to humanities after that. I added my other majors because that same semester I took a Gen-Ed on the Religion of Islam taught by Maha Nassar who’s a professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies. I loved the class and professor so much that I decided to take another one of her classes on Modern Middle Eastern History. It was because of that experience that I decided to major in MENAS and study Arabic.

Q. Why did you become an SBS Ambassador and what do you most enjoy about it? What other activities are you involved in outside the classroom?

The driving force behind my decision to be an Ambassador was COVID. I was in my freshman year when the lock down happened. Because of that, I hadn’t really met many people within SBS. The Ambassador program seemed like a really good way to meet people and get more involved in the college. At the same time, I became passionate about liberal arts and promoting it. Many families I had interacted with were like, “Why would you ever study liberal arts in college?” Having such conversations made me want to meet with prospective students and share the experience that it is worth it to pursue an education in liberal arts and encourage other students to do so. The best part of being an SBS Ambassador is connecting with people. The Ambassadors are so fun and I really enjoy our weekly meetings, and I love meeting with prospective families too.

I’m also doing the recruitment internship for the College of SBS too. I lead weekly info sessions instead of just doing a few a semester like most Ambassadors do. It’s so fun to talk with students as they begin their higher education journeys. I also used to be involved in the Arabic Flagship Program. Their goal is to help students reach fluency in Arabic and send them abroad. Thanks to the program, I was able to spend the summer in Jordan doing an Arabic language intensive.

Q. Do you have an idea of what you would like to do with your degree after graduation?

Because of my experiences working as a recruitment intern with SBS, I’m pursuing the possibility of working in Admissions next year. I would love to stay in Arizona, and I’m really interested in a position at the UA because of how financially affordable it makes grad school. I love working with prospective students and the possibility of also attending grad school while working makes it a tempting offer. I’m interested in language curriculum development and global education, but I would also definitely consider doing Middle Eastern studies again.

I was also considering teaching English, but I don’t have any direct teaching experience yet so I think that’d be a much harder transition.

Q. Do you have any advice for new students at UArizona?

For incoming students, I always urge them to get the most out of their Gen-Eds. I think a lot of people throw them away or just take the easiest classes. But for me, my Gen-Eds were really a place where I was able to explore and try out stuff to see what I wanted to major in. I ended up focusing on environmental issues in some classes, and I genuinely enjoyed learning about something that I wanted to know more about. I think it really benefited my experience here at the UA.

I really urge new students to utilize those opportunities and take a language class you think would serve you, even if it may be harder than just taking Spanish. There’s been so many fulfilling things about learning Arabic. Yes, it has a different script and maybe that’s a little scary in the beginning, but it’s so fun and it only takes about a month to get really confident in. I would urge students to really dig into opportunities and not waste their time.