Alumna Inspiring Students to be a Vehicle for Change

Reconnecting with her former professor through a meeting at a College alumni event in 2019 has led Malika Rahman to a different career trajectory.

“I didn’t know I wanted to teach in that moment. I knew I wanted to give back, perhaps through my nonprofit, Be A Great You, Inc. Once the opportunity presented itself to guest lecture, it all made perfect sense. I got to come back to the place where it started for me. I started teaching one class, and it has transcended into so much more. The opportunities at the College kept expanding and growing. I can bring my life, career and field experience to the next generation of law enforcement professionals. I had finally arrived at a place where perseverance aligned with purpose,” she said.

Rahman has years of experience in the field, where she has served as a correctional officer, a Deputy Sheriff’s officer and Community Relations officer. She was the first and youngest African-American female in Philadelphia to run for sheriff in 2018 when she announced her candidacy. Rahman is now a visiting lecturer in Criminal Justice and a participant in the Diversity Fellowship program, an initiative that she credits for helping her acclimate to her current role.

“I absolutely love the Fellowship program. They have workshops on interview preparation, course development, essential lessons, and what faculty and students need to know. It prepares you for a career in academia,” said Rahman.

A new course she developed, Race and Justice, is close to approval as a requirement for all Criminal Justice majors, beginning this fall. In addition to teaching students to become better officers and professionals, she also works to educate the College community and the public. Her upcoming Feb. 23 Law and Society Week presentation, Gender Inequality in Law Enforcement: Beyond the Badge, addresses another mission: uplifting women, and expanding and increasing their role in the field.

“Women were thought of as a nuisance in law enforcement—it was said women were emotional, lacked physical strength, needed to be protected, fragile. Women bring a different strength to the job—we bring a different context to de-escalate situations,” she said.

Rahman points out that there are only six African-American female sheriffs in the country. Similarly, Philadelphia has not yet had a female mayor.

“Overall, the law enforcement community has made pivotal steps, but there is still more work to be done. Are we grooming women for leadership positions in the community in which they work? We don’t need to be in a few rooms, we need to be in all rooms,” she said.

She reminds all of her students that combining their efforts and talents with team members yields the best results.

“I bring all of my resources to add to yours. That’s how we become effective,” said Rahman.

In teaching students how to bring more equity and diversity into law enforcement, she is hopeful for continued progress.

“Perhaps we can encourage our students to be the change,” said Rahman.