Senior Spotlight: Veteran Musa Hussein ’20 Sets Sights on Helping Victims of Human Trafficking

Senior Spotlight: Veteran Musa Hussein ’20 Sets Sights on Helping Victims of Human Trafficking

Senior Spotlight: Veteran Musa Hussein ’20 Sets Sights on Helping Victims of Human Trafficking

After serving in the U.S. Army and being deployed in Afghanistan, veteran Musa Hussein ’20 returned to civilian life determined to earn a college degree. But the road to his goal wasn’t easy. “I struggled with cognitive issues that made college tremendously difficult for me,” says Hussein. “But I never gave up and that’s a testament to my discipline and what my military experience taught me. You have to keep going, even in the toughest of times.” At John Jay, Hussein regained his self-confidence, took the bull by the horns, buckled down in his studies, and made it onto the Dean’s list. After earning his degree in International Criminal Justice, he's one step closer to his dream of helping human trafficking victims around the world.

“As someone who’s passionate about human rights and helping victims of human trafficking I needed a college education that was justice focused. John Jay was the answer.” —Musa Hussein

What made you want to come to John Jay and what was life like before you arrived at the College?
Before arriving at John Jay, I served in the U.S. Army as an Indirect-Fire Infantryman. My journey with the armed forces took me all over the world, including a deployment to Afghanistan. As someone who’s passionate about human rights and helping victims of human trafficking I needed a college education that was justice focused. John Jay was the answer. I knew the College would provide me with the best education and also give me access to the best networks.

When you first came to John Jay, what were some of your biggest challenges? How did you overcome them?
After leaving the military I struggled with cognitive issues that made my transition to college tremendously difficult. I first went to a community college, and over the course of my first few semesters, I failed three classes. What seemed easy for everyone else was completely hard for me. But when I came to John Jay, something changed. With the help of John Jay’s Office of Accessibility Services, Office of Military and Veteran Services, and the entire veteran community, I was able to make it through every challenge and strive for academic excellence. I turned my low GPA into outstanding honors and now, at the end of my academic journey, I'm on the Dean’s list.

“With the help of John Jay’s Office of Accessibility Services, Office of Military and Veteran Services, and the entire veteran community, I was able to make it through every challenge and strive for academic excellence.” —Musa Hussein

If you had to point to one person, organization, or place at John Jay who made your experience especially fulfilling, supportive, or productive, who or what would that be and why?
It would be International Criminology Professor Patrick Mondaca. He’s a fellow veteran and he was incredibly supportive throughout my journey at John Jay. He introduced me to a scholarship opportunity from Sentinels of Freedom, an organization that helps veterans achieve success in higher education. Without Sentinels of Freedom, I wouldn’t be where I am today, achieving my goals.

What’s your favorite, and most memorable, story about interacting with Professor Mondaca?
We traveled to the United Kingdom for a month-long Security Management/Consultancy training during the Summer of 2018. We trained alongside some of the top security professionals in the world and the amount of knowledge and leadership skills I gained was immeasurable. The trip gave me a chance to network, make friends in the corporate world, and get advice from the best in the industry. It gave me a real confidence boost. Now, I know I will add value to any organization I join.

What do you hope to do after you graduate from John Jay?
After I graduate, I plan to complete the Cornell Certified Diversity Practitioner/Advanced Practitioner program at the ILR School at Cornell University. I learned about the program from Sentinels of Freedom. After that, I’m hoping to enroll at St Mary’s University in London where I’ll pursue a master’s degree in Human Trafficking, Migration, and Organized Crime. And while I’m there, I look forward to working with the Centre for the Study of Modern Day Slavery and non-government organizations (NGOs) to combat human trafficking.   

If all goes well, where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself as the Founder and CEO of a non-profit organization. The program will rehabilitate victims of human trafficking, helping them transition back into society and into the workplace. I plan on using the knowledge I learned at John Jay to combat human trafficking in various ways, hoping to help better the lives of victims seeking aid.

Is there a particular classroom, fellowship, or internship experience that helped shape you as a person?
There are so many experiences that helped shape me. In my Law/Politics of Race Relations class, Professor Diane Peress Goldstein, who works with the Nassau County District Attorney's Office, taught me to be fair and considerate when discussing sensitive topics. I had an internship with Lisa Beatha, Director of CUNY Veteran Affairs, where I learned how to lead a team and be an effective leader that gets things done. And then, of course, Richard Pusateri, former Navy Officer and Director of John Jay’s Military and Veteran Services Office. He taught me the value of being prepared and empathetic when interacting with vulnerable people, like human trafficking victims. He emphasized the importance of listening and how to come up with solutions to help.

“I’d love to celebrate alongside my beautiful fiancée, Juliana. We have been in a long-distance relationship for over three years. Last fall, I officially proposed to her and she said yes.” —Musa Hussein

Since this isn’t a traditional semester—and for safety reasons, we need to continue practicing social distancing—how do you hope to celebrate graduating from John Jay?
I was blessed with a wonderful family and the most dedicated and hard-working parents in the world. So, it would be nice to celebrate this achievement with them. And, I’d love to celebrate alongside my beautiful fiancée, Juliana. We have been in a long-distance relationship for over three years. Last fall, I officially proposed to her and she said yes. If I can spend time this summer celebrating my accomplishment with her and our loved ones it would mean everything to me.