Celebrating Every Chapter:Buthaina Shukri, M.S. ’00

Buthaina Shukri

BIO

  • M.S., University of Baltimore
  • Career counselor and alumni relations
    and development professional
  • Assistant to the President, Community
    Action Council of Howard County
  • Former director of UB’s Career Center and manager of publications for the School of Law

In January Buthaina Shukri, M.S. ’00 retired from a 20-plus year career in higher education. “I had planned a family trip to the Galapagos Islands,” she says. “But, pandemic.”

Cancelling the trip was disappointing but Shukri is looking forward to her “third act” as assistant to the president at the Community Action Council of Howard County.

“It’s the best of all possible worlds, meaningful part time work at a nonprofit in my community,”  she says.

Shukri has successfully navigated a variety of transitions, from coming to the United States at age 5 to living internationally. Her Iraqi father and British mother met when her father attended university in London. Shukri was born in Germany while her father was in medical school, and the family moved to Austria where he continued his studies. “My socially activist father was nearing graduation and did not want to return to the increasingly oppressive atmosphere in Iraq,” she says. “My parents had become good friends with a couple from Newton, Massachusetts, who offered to sponsor our family to emigrate. We became U.S. citizens in 1972.”

Shukri attended college in New York and lived in California before moving to Berlin, then part of West Germany, where her first husband was stationed with the U.S. Army. “We saw the Wall come down,” she recalls. The couple moved to Seoul, South Korea where Shukri began her career as a job assistance counselor. “I worked with U.S. military personnel when the armed services were being downsized,” she explains. “From the beginning I enjoyed the relationship building.”

Upon returning to the States, Shukri took a position as UB’s assistant director of Career Development and Cooperative Education. The area evolved into The Career Center, and she eventually became its director and also completed her UB master’s degree.

“I was always in awe of the drive and resilience of UB students,” Shukri recalls. “I remember a mentee who would bring her 3-year-old to our meetings after she’d worked all day and before her finance class. One employer said to me, ‘I know your students aren’t going to grow up on my time and money—they know who they are and are going to be successful.’”

“I met so many donors who came from unusual or humble beginnings, who were determined to prevail no matter what. Often they would credit an institution or professor who started them on a path. It’s great when you can share those stories.”

After what she calls “nine wonderful, fulfilling, stimulating, and growth-filled years,” Shukri opened a private practice in career counseling, which allowed her to be more available to her daughter Jessica, then in high school.
She returned to UB as publications manager for the School of Law and several years later moved on to work in alumni relations and development at The George Washington University.

“I met so many donors who came from unusual or humble beginnings, who were determined to prevail no matter what,” she says. “Often they would credit an institution or professor who started them on a path. It’s great when you can share those stories.”

Recently Shukri and her husband Jeffrey Boutwell trained as contact tracers, helping health departments find and inform people who have been exposed to someone with a positive COVID-19 status. Shukri also looks forward to making a difference in her newest role at the Community Action Council, which provides food and housing assistance, including help with energy and weatherization needs, as well as early childhood education resources, to lower-income residents of Howard County.

Shukri became a grandmother in September 2019. “I come from a tiny nuclear family and now I want to gather memories for my grandson Jack,” she explains. Besides recording family history, a longtime interest, she’s writing letters and postcards to Jack: “It’s a way to capture the experience of his family living in this extraordinary time.”

Paula Novash is managing editor of the magazine.

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