From the moment I was born to the day he drew his last breath, my father did not as much hold me in his protective embrace as he challenged me to dare to be great - dare to dream big. In a society as patriarchal as Pakistan’s I believe this to be the greatest gift a father could give his daughter. The confidence to know that I could achieve anything and the faith that he would be there if I failed. And succeed and fail I did and he was there urging me on, asking me where I thought I went wrong and what I could do better next time.

This changed when my superhero father passed away. I realized that the will to learn and achieve had never ceased to exist, but more than that, the ambition to go beyond had just been buried with my father, because only he had had the power to bring it out. Spending time motivating my students about leaving a legacy and making an impact brought me back to my life mantra: aspire to inspire, a lesson my father had lived by.

Because I want to matter.

Because I want to give voice to the voiceless.

Because I want to share happiness with the less fortunate.

Because we all have a responsibility to care for those around us and only when we come together can we rise above our individual selves and truly make a difference.

I came to GPSS with a vision of improving graduate experience at ISU, learning from my own interactions and fixing what can be fixed as part of the cyclone experience.

Being an international graduate student, there are a lot of rungs in the ladder you must climb before you can truly call ISU home. Completing each milestone is a small victory and one step closer to becoming an independent and self-sufficient graduate student.

I believe that the process of finding ourselves well taken care of in Ames should not be optional or a matter of luck. It should be a given. Therefore, I am involved in GPSS because we can create a positive change in the lives of graduate students to ensure that they are provided with all opportunities that they rightfully deserve. Whether it be childcare, affordable housing or catering to the diversity they are bringing to our cyclone family.

I believe in leading with collaboration and cooperation. A leader is no superhero, supposed to know everything and magically make everything better with one swirl of a magic wand. I believe in working hand in hand with my team in constructing the overall vision, mission and objectives. I feel that clear communication about set goals is essential for empowering fellow teammates and enabling them to achieve their goals successfully.

In our passion for achieving positive results, we often forget that there is always a margin of error and that we are accountable for whatever misstep we may have unconsciously taken. Taking responsibility is a sign of strength and I believe that by developing a strong relationship with my team, I have strived to create an atmosphere of mutual trust. I have also learnt from my experiences not to micromanage my teammates because every member of the team brings with him/her a vision and a quality that is central to their learning as well as success.

While constantly working on my interpersonal relationship with my team, I also keep asking myself some questions to keep an eye on the eventual goals:

1. Where am I looking to anticipate change within the organization and why exactly is it important? Who will it impact and what is the most efficient way of creating that change?

2. What is the diversity measure of my network?

3. Am I courageous enough to abandon the past and change the way we perceive our goals and achieve them?

The ultimate passion to achieve my goals. Living in the midst of stereotypes has made me rock-solid in my resolve to fulfill my objectives. Any outcome is an outcome, positive or negative is irrelevant in the bigger context of improving the system.

I motivate myself by constantly reminding myself that my efforts are focused on improving the student experience at ISU and therefore I should constantly ask questions and find ways to turn ideas into actions. Some tasks are going to be harder than others and take longer than others, however, constant communication with peers always helps in finding creative solutions and ways to move forward to become better.

My team has been a tremendous support system not just for me but each other as well and we can always rely on each other for advice and constructive criticism and that’s what makes obstacles just another task we can deal with together.

GPSS has evolved over this year by taking up initiatives that we hadn’t talked about before and have put in a lot of effort into advocating for graduate students on-campus and therefore, moving forward, I would like to see that vision grow bigger and better.

There will always be venues where taking risks is necessary to break the norm and step outside our comfort zones to achieve what has not been done before. With my extremely talented and devoted team this year, that was possible and I have no doubts that we are creating good examples of how to advocate and leave no stone unturned- because when it comes to our students, they are our top priority.

It is clear that diversity and inclusion are not just about ‘doing the right thing’ anymore and they have more to do with how we tend to define them for ourselves. What rings true for me is that diversity is who we are and how we approach situations in our lives and how we decide to make the best out of them by using the right measures and inclusion is definitely not just being ‘integrative’ with these ideas.

It is about creating a conducive environment where naturally, everyone from diverse backgrounds can come together and work with each other respectfully as well as collaboratively in a safe space. It is also about creating the necessary mentality about being perceptive of diverse ideas as well as challenges because these thought processes make the team stronger as they serve to make them conscious of adapting to new challenges and changing work conditions.

Remember that being a leader doesn’t mean seniority in hierarchy, it is a process of creating social influence and maximizing the efforts of other people towards the achievement of a goal and never letting down anyone who looks up to you.

Rather than being reactive, be proactive. Look around the corners for shaping the future of your organization than waiting for issues to present themselves.

Develop relationships with people who are very different from you, in their ideas, problem-solving skills and thoughts to broaden your own, to make an impact. That will open up your mind to pursue problems from different perspectives and earn you people’s respect and trust.

Be courageous enough to abandon the past and dare to be different. Act and set an example. Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk. Lead by example.

Build your emotional stamina to bear criticism of your ideas and keep marching on. It will not matter in the long run when you have achieved the goal you set out to. Rome was not built in one day.

I am more than a woman in hijab.


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