At age 14, Sami Makseyn ’19 faced the biggest challenge of her young life. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, she spent 11 days in a coma and missed nine weeks of school. The experience transformed her into a force for change: Passionate about healthcare advocacy, she helped found a nonprofit organization for youth advocacy in politics and legislation when she was just 18. Before she turned 21, she had already worked in both American government and international government.
In part, Makseyn says she has been able to accomplish so much because of Hollins’ Signature Internship Program, one of the factors that convinced her to enroll at the university. “My choice in college was influenced by the fact that I later wanted to go on to law school, but internships intimidated me. How was I going to take time during a semester to do an internship? They’re not paid, so how would I live somewhere?
“With Hollins and the January Short Term, I was able to do an internship, receive a stipend, have housing provided, and not miss any school.”
Makseyn completed three Signature Internships, all in Washington, D.C. In her sophomore year, she interned with the office of U.S. Senator Al Franken (“I served on their healthcare, transportation, and Native American affairs teams.”); junior year brought her to the nonprofit Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (“I worked on their economic justice project, which deals with discrimination in employment.”); and this year she interned with the American Healthcare Association (“I got to understand the kind of work that goes into healthcare legislation.”).
Studying abroad in London her junior year, Makseyn interned with a member of Parliament: Virendra Sharma, whose constituency is largely Indian and Southeast Asian. “Type 2 diabetes occurs among those populations at a much higher rate. Many people go undiagnosed for a long time and then they’re not sure how to deal with it. So, I created a type 2 diabetes guide that offers local resources and general information about the disease and treatment.”
Makseyn augmented her real-world experience, and honed her public speaking, multitasking, research, and debating skills, by participating in Model United Nations (MUN) and Model Arab League (MAL) at Hollins. MUN and MAL conferences feature “crisis simulations and you have to figure out how to deal with them,” she explains. “I learned how to find my voice. It’s something I think is particular to Hollins as a women’s college and an environment where your peers are so supportive. We go to conferences with coed schools and I’m assertive and well-spoken. I don’t think I would have gotten that confidence anywhere else.”
With a likely focus on healthcare law (her senior thesis, “Medicare for All?: An Analysis of American Healthcare and the Potential for Universal Coverage,” has received honors status), Makseyn will attend The George Washington University Law School this fall. Concurrently, she plans to complete a Master’s in public health. “Eventually I want to work in politics, so I want to be well-versed in healthcare policies. It’s so important to me and to a lot of people.”
Even though she knows she wants to perform legal work, Makseyn says she is grateful that Hollins and the Signature Internship Program in particular have given her the opportunity “to dip my toes in so many different fields. I’ve seen everywhere my political science degree can take me. If I wasn’t going to go to law school immediately, or decided I wasn’t going to attend law school after all, I would be completely confident I could find a job that I would enjoy based on everything I’ve done here. Nothing is off limits.”