6B Wednesday, Mrch 21, 201
I Wednesday, March 21, 2012 // The Statement
or Rackham student Mohammed Tayssir Safi - hired by the Michigan
Muslim Alumni Association as the University's first Muslim chaplain in
January - listening is as much a religious duty as a line item in his job
"It's an act of worship just to meet people: to talk to them, to hear them, to
listen to what they have to say so that you can better serve them," Safi said.
Safi's appointment marked the first of a Muslim chaplain among public uni-
versities. Only about 30 universities nationwide have the position.
Two months into his appointment, Safi said his job entails listening more
than anything else. He is still having first meetings with University officials,
campus religious leaders and students. Earlier this month, he held office hours
for students and he said more showed up than he could listen to.
"I didn't know that this was going to happen, but people very quickly opened
up," he said. "... I had nine students in the span of two hours that I was there, and
I couldn't meet all of them."
Safi's other responsibilities include advocating on behalf of the Muslim
Student Association, working with religious figures on campus to encourage
cooperation and tolerance, and assisting MSA with miscellaneous tasks - be it
finding a speaker or offering advice.
He said he is a conduit both to and from the University's Muslim community,
not only raising MSA's ambitions and concerns to the University but returning
to MSA with the University's thoughts and responses.
"Sometimes the University's actively concerned and hoping to help minority
communities both in faith and ethnicity, but they don't know who to contact,"
he said. "And so I'm trying to connect with people so that they know if they can't
come to me, at least I can put them in contact with the people they need."
And though he resisted credit for all the efforts he's putting in, citing Islam's
teachings of modesty, he said his intermediation seems especially important
given the high turnover rate among the Muslim campus leadership.
In April, when the president and both vice presidents of MSA graduate, the
University and other religious organizations on campus will have to rebuild
their relationships with the University's Muslim community - except for Safi.
"Next year they're going off to do what they're going to do, and now you've got
a whole new group of people that you have to interact with," he said. "And so all
those relationships that you built disappear. We hope that I'm a circuit."
by Vanessa Rychlinski
L SA junior Connie Shi has all the answers.
The cellular and molecular biology major advanced to the semi-finals of the
College Jeopardy! Championship after winning a quarter final that aired Feb.
2, finishing with $19,000 in winnings.
Shi was one of 12,000 undergraduates to apply to the college version of the
popular television game show. She auditioned in New York City before being
selected as one of 15 students who would compete on the show. Shi was flown to
Culver City, Calif. for filming in January.
"You get to go with the purpose of representing your school," Shi said. "It adds
an even better dimension."
Shi said the only strategy she employed for her stint on Jeopardy! was to
"answer correctly and before others," which is the same mindset she has for
exams. Shi added that she went into the show with the goal of doing her best and
enjoying herself in the process.
"The game is so unpredictable," Shi said. "You really don't know what's going
to happen in the moment, then there's a commercial break."
Shi's win led her to compete in the semi-finals the day after the first round.
The show aired a week later on Feb. 10.
"What most people don't realize is that the filming is done all at once - so Ken
Jennings (74-time Jeopardy! winner) taped each episode one after the other."
Shi said though there was less pressure after she won the first round, she was
less confident during the second round, in which she finished third.
Shi's life went back to normal once she returned to Ann Arbor with exams to
study for and a contract of silence to uphold. Shi couldn't tell anyone - outside
of her parents, who were present in the audience - of her win.
"It was kind of fun, knowing something no one else knows," Shi said.
Keeping academics first as always, Shi didn't watch herself on television in
early February because she was in class.
As an undergraduate researcher in the University Comprehensive Cancer Cen-
ter, Shi was recently selected to be one of 17 recipients of the prestigious Thomas J. -
Bardos Science Education Award offered by the American Association for Cancer
Research. She will head to Chicago at the end of the month to participate in the
AACR annual conference.
Shi additionally volunteers at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Ann Arbor, is a
violinist in the Michigan Pops orchestra and is a staff member of the Michigan
Undergraduate Research Journal.
All in all, Shi said that her Jeopardy! experience was "plenty of excitement,"
and she offered advice to University students.
"As students, it is important to be open to opportunities available to you," Shi
said. "If you take the time to find the classes that are interesting to you, you
} never know when the opportunity may come about to make use of it."