Macaulay Honors College is pleased to announce that Brooklyn activist, legislator and CUNY graduate Shahana Hanif will serve as the 2023 Commencement speaker. Hanif will address Macaulay’s graduates at United Palace on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on May 24. Hanif represents the 39th Council District, which includes parts of Kensington, Borough Park, Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and the Columbia Waterfront.
“As a native New Yorker and a product of both New York City schools and CUNY, I know our students will be able to relate to Shahana Hanif,” said Macaulay Dean Dr. Dara N. Byrne. “Shahana’s devotion to issues and causes that impact her community, especially in the face of adversity, will inspire us all on May 24.”
Shahana embodies many of the qualities we see and hope for in our Macaulay graduates: an indefatigable sense of purpose and determination rooted in connection and community.
Born and raised in District 39 to Bangladeshi immigrant parents, Shahana has spent her life fighting for working-class families and a City rooted in care, equity, and justice for all. Her diagnosis at 17 with Lupus, an incurable chronic illness, and her subsequent experiences navigating the costly, nebulous healthcare system, and inaccessible City, were the catalysts for her organizing and commitment to public service.
Before being elected to the City Council, Shahana served as the Director of Organizing and Community Engagement in former District 39 Council Member Brad Lander’s office, where she led grassroots initiatives like Participatory Budgeting, a process that gives New Yorkers a say in how to spend City dollars in their neighborhoods. She has also served as a tenants’ rights organizer, a gender justice organizer, and an interfaith organizer.
Shahana is the first Muslim woman elected to the New York City Council, and the first woman to represent the 39th District. In her first term, she introduced transformative legislation, from a mandatory universal residential composting program to seven paid days of sick leave for gig workers and other independent contractors. On the community level, Shahana and her staff are working to address block-by-block sanitation issues, promote education equity across classrooms, expand open streets and funding for parks and playgrounds, implement flooding resilient housing infrastructure, and center the needs of women, youth, immigrants, and seniors.
Shahana attended PS 230 in Kensington and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies at Brooklyn College.