Class of 2016: Doctoral student finds improving workplace culture has many benefits

For her dissertation, George Mason University psychology doctoral student Afra Ahmad, BA Psychology ’08, tackled a very timely topic: religious discrimination.

By looking at 25 years of religious discrimination charges submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she investigated how these claims have changed over time in response to a particular county’s religious diversity, unemployment rates, and voting behaviors—and how this all influences experiences on the job. She is graduating this May.

“Workplace experiences matter so much in shaping our well-being, happiness, the way we see the world, everything,” Ahmad said. “People are working 40 or more hours a week. It is essential to overcome obstacles regarding workplace discrimination and to promote well-being. Improving people’s experiences at work impacts so many aspects of one’s life. That got me excited about the field.”

After graduating from Mason’s Psychology Department with honors, Ahmad headed abroad on a Fulbright to the United Arab Emirates. There she researched the stigma of mental health in a Muslim country and the consequences of incivility on occupational aspirations. The experience marked a milestone in Ahmad’s life in more ways than one.

“When I found out that I received the Fulbright, I also found out my husband and I were expecting our first child. We had our son in November and left for the Fulbright in January. My son’s first year was abroad.”

Ahmad’s association with Mason started well before her college days. As a local student, she took part in Mason’s Early Identification Program, which helped her to apply for financial assistance, study for SATs, and receive instructional guidance.

“Mason came into my life in middle school,” she said, “and the faculty and resources have helped me every step of the way.” She cited the support of her advisor, psychology professor  Eden King, and that of her friends and family.

Her employment prospects are bright. She has already landed an academic job and will soon be an assistant professor of management at Zayed University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“As a future academic,” she said, “I hope to provide similar guidance to students while I conduct meaningful research aimed at promoting diversity and reducing discrimination in the workplace.”