Maryann Dreas-Shaikha ’10, a self-proclaimed lifelong learner, is driven by a desire to tackle inequities in education. Maryann embodies the legacy of our founder Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, and has “set out to where the work is great and difficult.”

This article appeared in The Magazine of Dominican University (April 2020)

Bringing a Dominican Worldview to Universal Challenges
Dominican alumnae/i are extending the values they learned as undergraduates to a global stage.

For Maryann Dreas-Shaikha ’10, coming to Dominican from a small farm in southern Illinois ignited her childhood passion for international perspectives. She credits her mother for inspiring her desire to explore the undiscovered world. “She made sure that I had books with characters from all around the world,” Dreas-Shaikha said.

While at Dominican, Dreas-Shaikha met her husband, Shahzeb Shaikha ’10, a student from Pakistan. After graduating with a double major in journalism and political science, Dreas-Shaikha taught English in the Republic of Georgia, while her husband completed his master’s degree in international security from the University of Pittsburgh. Together, they moved to Shaikha's hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, where Dreas-Shaikha taught middle school English and literature at the renowned Karachi Grammar School, founded in 1847. She found a number of opportunities to combine her English skills and interest in international relations, including coaching students as they participated in a Model UN program. Last year, she took a ninth-grade team to the UN Headquarters, where they won Best Delegate within their age group. 

Dreas-Shaikha also applied her experience as a student worker in Dominican’s performing arts center by directing her students in plays and exploring tough themes through such works as Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

Dreas-Shaikha credits a wide range of Dominican professors and advisors for shaping her writing and love of literature as well as her understanding of the importance of storytelling and global culture and politics. She cherishes the hours working with Bill Jenkins, associate professor of theater, in Dominican’s scene shop. And she retains a vivid impression of a 2009 service learning trip led by Associate Professor of Sociology Christina Perez to Ecuador, where her student group monitored elections and immersed themselves in daily life. 

“We visited a farm, so unlike the farm where I’d grown up,” she recalls. “A smiling woman vigorously demonstrated to us how to roll out tortillas on a stone slab. The hard farm life and the sun had aged her beyond her years. I was stunned to discover that she and I were both 21 years old.”

A self-proclaimed lifelong learner driven by a desire to tackle inequities in education, Dreas-Shaikha is pursuing a master’s degree in international education development at the University of Pennsylvania. She misses her Pakistani students and thinks about them every day. Her husband manages his own business in Karachi but they reunite during breaks in her graduate program. This summer, she looks forward to a teaching internship in Ethiopia with UNESCO’s International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa.

She eventually plans to relocate with her husband to southern Illinois, not far from the farm where she grew up and her parents still live.

“Shazzi and I are appreciative of Dominican’s vision and mission of caritas and veritas. It has guided me throughout my life.”