iSchool student Ghufran Salih ’20 called her junior year “a rollercoaster ride” with a balance of highs and lows. She’s been President of the Student Association, a member of Kappa Theta Pi, and still participates in other student organizations that matter to her. But as she notes, being an iSchool student has been helpful to her and her journey so far.

How did junior year go?

My junior year has been a whirlwind, and a rollercoaster. There are times it’s slowly moving upwards, or crashing downwards. There’s a bunch of loops. There’s crying, and screaming.

Ghufran Salih at her desk.

Ghufran Salih at her desk.

But there’s also been joy and excitement. This feeling of accomplishment and proudness. This year has been one of the eye-opening years of my life. It’s also been the most academically challenging, and mentally challenging. This was a good year.

What’s been your favorite experience?

Speaking at convocation in front of 5,000 people was awesome. There were first-year students, transfers, their parents. All of the class marshals and the deans. It was terrifying, but overcoming my fear of public speaking in that space in the Dome. Exposing who I am as a person and becoming vulnerable in my speech to inspire these students was the best time.

And there’s been more since then. I’ve had one-on-ones with students, having small intimate moments with other people, it was so influential in my life.

What’s been the worst experience?

I got really sick. It’s hindered my physical ability to do a lot of things. And I had to miss a very important event because I was in the hospital.

But it wasn’t an SA event. It wasn’t something I was required to be in. It was an event that I wanted to go to, because a student told me about it. Knowing and being so hard on myself because I was sick, and knowing I wasn’t able to really fill my duty was the worst experience.

This, tied to what happened to the New Zealand attack, was pretty rough for me and [the Muslim] community.

As a woman of color, do you hope your experience in student leadership has made an impact to other communities?

That’s what I hope. My biggest takeaway from this year is that when someone comes into this position, if they have similar identities to myself, that they can speak up and be strong. When you’re a black Muslim woman sitting in a room of majority white, affluent men who have influence on this campus, it’s difficult to speak up. It wasn’t until November until I could speak up confidently. I realized I’m not here to please these people, I’m here to serve students.

Ghufran Salih '20 in Hinds Hall, home of the iSchool.

Ghufran Salih ’20 in Hinds Hall, home of the iSchool.

This happens to so many student leaders on this campus who have felt microaggressions where people are supposed to be professional. I’ve had people grab my scarf to feel the material and say “This is so nice!” I sit there and think, that’s not okay. These are my boundaries.

I don’t think I want a legacy. I want the things I did to continue on and to challenge the university. This time last year, I came into my session during Theta Tau. Then came the Ackerman attack. Then so many smaller events that people don’t talk about. There are also experiences that I had coming in. There needs to be more people coming into these positions and challenging authority.

Being on this campus is not easy. I hope students continue to fight and push for what they believe in.

Who was your support system?

My family in First Year Players has been very supportive every time I get criticism, they are there to support me. They let me know what I need to carry on. I always try to say that this is an isolating position, because there are times you don’t please everyone. It feels like it’s you vs. everyone else.

The Muslim Student Association also empowered me to take back my religion. This year, my spirituality became lost because you’re so busy. It’s hard to take a second to pray. The students in the MSA was incredible.

My fraternity, Kappa Theta Pi, really helped me just let loose. They taught me not to worry too much. They taught me about what I’m doing now is important. I grew very close to my brothers this year, and my big was a huge support system. Having supportive systems are key to thriving.

Meeting people through the Student Association have gotten very close to me, and they centered my aura, as well. There are so many people in this campus who are good and kind, who take action.

What are your upcoming plans?

This summer, I’m interning at JP Morgan Chase as a summer analyst. Next semester, I will be abroad in Amman, Jordan studying Arabic and Area Studies.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned?

I don’t need to be so hard on myself. Even when you make a mistake, or forget your words during a presentation. This weekend, I had a reflection moment because the election finished. I look back and thought when I was in the office, beating myself up over a bill or initiative. There were so many moments that you just need to empower yourself. You need to critique yourself in a way that doesn’t sabotage you.

by Lianza Reyes