Awa is famous on campus. And not just for her charming personality and lively wit. Awa ended a cultural drought by winning the election for the Duke Student Government presidency in April 2009.
Many undergraduate women at Duke were presidents of their student bodies in high school and have the skills and experiences necessary to be successful leaders of DSG. But the student culture at Duke defines running for office as unfeminine and subtly discourages women from putting themselves “in the ring” for consideration. In fact, the last female DSG president served in 1999! As a result, the voices of undergraduate women have been underrepresented in significant policy and programming decisions at the University level.
Awa is a member of the Class of 2010 with a political science major and minors in philosophy and economics. In addition to Duke Student Government, Awa has been actively involved with the Black Student Alliance, the President’s Council on Black Affairs, and Dukes and Duchesses. She also represented undergraduate students on the Quality Enhancement Program board, a group given the exhaustive task of conducting and presenting self-study and assessment for Duke’s reaccreditation process.
Awa’s personal story is compelling and inspiring. She was born in Somalia. Her family fled the civil war when she was three years old and were refugees in Africa, living in the most unsettled fashion for several years before emigrating to the United States. She’s lived many places and has had to start over many times – not an easy way of life, but one that prepared her well to improvise and adjust to changing circumstances.
When asked about a defining decision she has made, Awa responded, “Not long ago, I made a commitment to be proactive in pursuing all my life goals. I changed from waiting for inspiration to actively seeking it. The world offers so many opportunities that you can miss out on so much by waiting for them to come to you.” She credits her mother as being her biggest supporter, giving her the strength to pursue her dreams.
Awa advises Duke women to find out who they really are and develop a strong relationship with themselves, first and foremost. “As individuals, the greatest contribution we can make to the world is to look at it from our unique perspectives with not only awe, but also a critical eye.”
Following graduation, Awa plans to attend the Harvard Business School 2+2 Program.