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Buccino Leadership Institute

Buccino Leadership Institute's Bright Spot: Project Sunshine at Seton Hall

Project Sunshine Founders

From Left to Right: Seton Hall's Project Sunshine Founders Sally Lai, Dr. Kathy Connolly, and Lamiyah Rajai

As the Associate Director of the Buccino Leadership Institute (BLI), it is my pleasure to highlight the remarkable achievements of two leadership students — Sally Lai, who is in the B.S. in Nursing program, and Lamiyah Rajai, who is in the M.S. in Physician Assistant dual degree program. Their story is a testament to the vibrant interdisciplinary efforts underway at our Interprofessional Health Sciences (IHS) campus. Through their initiative and dedication, these students have not only enhanced the lives of many but have also set a stellar example for their peers, embodying the values we hold dear at the BLI and Seton Hall. 

Lamiyah Rajai and Sally Lai have a passion for servant leadership and caring for others. The two students met through the Buccino Leadership Institute where interdisciplinary teamwork is a major focus of their development. Given the challenges facing health care today, an interdisciplinary collaborative effort aimed at improving patient outcomes is crucial. When Lamiyah learned about Project Sunshine, an organization whose mission it is to deliver the healing power of play to children with medical needs through dedicated volunteers, she knew she wanted to bring the organization to Seton Hall, and who better to work with than Sally Lai, a nursing leadership student with a passion for working with children. 

Since that time, the two have worked tirelessly to make Project Sunshine come alive on the South Orange campus. The chemistry and collaboration witnessed between the two as president and vice president has been outstanding. The broad interest in the club among students of all disciplines is a testament to their enthusiasm and organizational abilities and the exceptional e-board team they assembled. The positive response among the student body underscores the willingness of Seton Hall students to give back to the community and help others in need. The first outing took place at RWJBH/Cooperman Barnabas campus in Livingston, NJ, where the pediatric population consists of children with various acute and chronic illnesses, including cancer.  

Rajai's journey into a career of service was sparked by witnessing her grandfather’s dedication to providing healthcare to underserved communities in Ulhasnagar, India. Inspired by his example, Rajai became determined to serve her community and furthered her passion by joining her town's volunteer ambulance squad as an EMT at age 16. During her time as an EMT, Rajai served a diverse patient population and learned not only about the fundamentals of medical care, but also gained an eye-opening experience into the world of healthcare advocacy, fueling her view of healthcare as a fundamental right. This experience solidified her passion and commitment to healthcare as a career pathway. Now in her fourth year of the 3 plus 3 Physician Assistant program at Seton Hall's IHS campus, Rajai strives to make a positive impact on healthcare by providing compassionate care with a holistic approach. 

Regarding her experience of being a student in the BLI, Rajai said, "I learned the valuable lesson of channeling my energy beyond obstacles of fear or insecurities by acknowledging that passion is greater than all. This leadership program has provided encouragement, resources, and long-term friendships, for which I am so grateful, as each aspect has shaped me into the leader that I am today."

Lai’s interest in nursing was sparked as a child on the island of Saipan where she first thought she wanted to become a pediatrician. It was the combination of her interest in medicine, children and serving others that prompted her to explore nursing as a career. After having an opportunity in high school to shadow nurses, she witnessed how caring they were and realized they were the well-oiled machine holding healthcare together. She chose Seton Hall University, venturing a long way from home, to take part in the BLI and to develop herself as a leader in the field of nursing. Currently a senior, Lai completed a summer nurse externship in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at RWJBH/Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center, reinforcing her love of caring for children, even the tiniest among us.  

"The Buccino Leadership Institute offered an amazing opportunity for me to create a positive impact as a servant leader," said Lai. "I am confident that this experience will help me to become a better leader in all aspects of my personal and professional life."

With Rajai now a graduate student, Lai has assumed the role of president and is preparing for a succession plan after she graduates. Rajai remains actively involved in the program and the goal is to expand the presence of the organization to the IHS campus where students are studying various healthcare-related professions. Rajai has continued to pursue leadership roles and is currently the president of Project Access, an organization she brought to the IHS campus, aimed at exposing the career option of a physician assistant to young students.  

Both students attribute the success of Project Sunshine to the leadership skills they learned at the BLI and the value of servant leadership instilled in them at Seton Hall. For more information regarding Project Sunshine, contact Sally Lai at [email protected] or Lamiyah Rajai at [email protected]

About the Buccino Leadership Institute

The award-winning Buccino Leadership Institute is the only four-year undergraduate leadership development program in the country that provides interdisciplinary leadership curriculum emphasizing personal development and emotional intelligence; experiential learning through student-led interdisciplinary team projects supported by the Institute; discipline-specific leadership development emphasizing professional development, networking and community-building; professional coaching with ICF certified coaches to build students’ individual leadership capacity; and thought leadership through the Undergraduate Leaders Podcast and In the Lead magazine. Visit here to explore more. 

Categories: Campus Life, Health and Medicine

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