Student Affairs recently filled two staff positions that serve Stanford students. Long-time Stanford staff member Snehal Naik and fifth-year doctoral student Abiya Ahmed are assuming new leadership roles in the Office of Student Engagement and The Markaz, respectively. Here, they share what’s new in their units and how they will continue to support students during the pandemic.

Snehal Naik(Image credit: Courtesy Snehal Naik)

Snehal Naik is the new senior director of the Office of Student Engagement (OSE). In his new role, Naik will provide strategy, vision, support and long-range planning for student engagement initiatives and activities at Stanford, including Greek life.

“My goal as the senior director will be to look at a number of policies and guidelines we have in place to make sure they support all of our students from diverse backgrounds and help them flourish,” Naik said.

Under Naik’s leadership, OSE will support Stanford’s ongoing efforts to create a vibrant social life on campus. Specifically, Naik and his staff will help develop and support student-led organizations and events, including virtual ones during the pandemic, which Naik said has challenged his team to rethink their approach to student engagement.

“One of my greatest concerns for our students and staff is our mental health and well-being while finding balance in life,” he said. “It is vital that we create spaces that are inclusive, that we base our work around gratitude, and challenge us to build community and connections during this challenging time.”

Naik noted that the OSE was previously called Student Activities and Leadership. Along with the name change, the office will focus on building connections, networks and helping prepare students for their careers after Stanford. Naik welcomes students to share with him how the OSE can support their organizations and events to be successful.

Naik was born and raised in San Jose, California. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, San Diego, and a master’s degree in higher education administration from New York University. He worked for a few colleges and universities before joining Stanford in 2008. He previously served as associate director and assistant dean for Student Activities and Leadership and is also currently the associate director of student life in the MBA and MSx Programs Office at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Abiya Ahmed(Image credit: Courtesy Abiya Ahmed)

Abiya Ahmed is the new associate dean and director of The Markaz. As the center’s first director in more than two years, she will be tasked with developing its vision, mission and goals for the next few years. Additionally, she will initiate or build upon the center’s collaborations with other centers and campus partners, including Residential Education, the Office for Religious Life, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies.

“The center has immense potential and my goal is to do my best to actualize that,” Ahmed said.

To help with strategizing a direction for the future of The Markaz, Ahmed is creating a core task force comprising students and community members. She encourages anyone in the Stanford community who is interested in joining to contact her.

With most of the Stanford shut down and students dispersed around the globe, Ahmed said The Markaz is continuing to offer support and programming through virtual channels.

“We’ve set up a ‘digital Markaz’ that has the latest updates, and we’ve taken all our programming virtual,” she said.

Online opportunities include “Afternoon Chai” social gatherings, special Ramadan activities, a virtual Eid celebration and a continued partnership with CAPS to offer counseling services. The Markaz also has a popular new project called Community Creative Archive that is documenting student narratives and experiences of quarantine through art, poems, music and other explorations of digital space.

Ahmed is Pakistani and grew up in the United Arab Emirates. She also lived in Scotland before moving permanently to California. She earned a BA in mass communication and journalism from the American University of Sharjah, an MA in Islamic studies from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and an MA in religious studies from Stanford. She has previously worked as a middle school teacher, as well as the media relations coordinator for the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. She is currently a fifth-year PhD candidate at Stanford Graduate School of Education. Her dissertation explores how Muslim college students navigate religion and religious identity on a secular campus.