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Great Starts: Najma Ahmed ’21
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Great Starts: Najma Ahmed ’21

From time to time, we like to showcase a new SNC grad who’s entered the workplace or grad school. Success stories like these are pretty common. In fact, 96 percent of our graduates are in jobs or grad school within a year of graduation – and most of them much sooner than that!

Hometown: East Africa
Graduation year: 2021
Degree: Political Science and International Studies
Plans after graduation: Najma works as a talent acquisition analyst at Slalom in Minneapolis, Minn.


What was it about St. Norbert that appealed to you?

It was my first option! I remember feeling so happy and excited being on campus. One of the first people I met was Eric Wagner in the office of admission. He was so friendly, and I feel like when a person is confused on what to choose and they meet nice people, I think that draws them in. Also, because it’s a small campus. I was new to the country and wanted to have a good start: get used to the place, meet people and have long-lasting relationships.

Where did you call “home” before SNC?

I came to the U.S. as a refugee. I’m Somali from East Africa, born and raised in Kenya until I was seven. We moved to Uganda and I was in my first year of high school when we came to the U.S. The high school experience here is very different! We first moved to New York and then Milwaukee before settling in Green Bay. We ended up loving the community.

How did you decide to pursue a double major?

I think a lot of people struggle with finding a major because we always feel like we must have one major and that’s going to lead us where we want to go. But my majors and the kind of job I got after graduation don’t even correlate, and it was the same with my internship for a talent acquisition (human resources) team.

When I first started at SNC, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I wanted a major that eventually would get me into a field where I would not only be able to help people, but also help people who were in the same life situations I experienced. I remember telling myself: anybody can dream the American dream. I’m trying to live the American dream, and it can come true. I want to be able to help others, to guide them, because I know I didn’t have that. So I thought, ‘What major can help me with that?’ I remember looking through the majors and seeing political science, and then international studies a month later. I talked to my advisor and said I wanted to do both. She told me it was going to be a lot of work, but if anybody could do it, I could!

I feel like we stress for the four years we’re in college about what kind of job we want to do with that major, and I wish I had known from the beginning that my major wouldn’t determine my path. I’d tell the same thing to people just starting out: find the major that speaks to you, and eventually it’ll work out at the end. It’s all about the skills you learn and the connections you make — the way you express yourself and your qualities, and how you’re willing to learn.

Who inspired you on your journey?

The first person that comes to mind is Dr. Gratzia Villarroel. I always tell her, “My college experience changed the moment I met you my sophomore year. I wish I had met you my freshman year!” She’s been a great mentor, role model and friend – someone I could always reach out to and talk to, about school or personal things.

Another is Dr. Victoria Tashjian. I took two of her women’s and gender studies classes. I think when professors are really passionate about what they teach and they’re there for you … they make a huge difference.

Do you have any advice for others starting out in their college experience?

One thing students worry about is the financial aspect of college. Especially when you’re a first-generation student, it can be really stressful when we don’t have people who can help us in our families and we don’t know where to turn. I remember going through this. If there’s someone in the stage that I was back then, I would tell them there’s people here that they can talk to — even professors who know more about financial things than I expected!

What comes next for you?

I moved to Minnesota for a new career and basically started a new life all over again in a different state. My goal is to eventually attend graduate school, get an international relations degree, and hopefully one day work for the U.N. When a person comes to the U.S. as a refugee from another country, they come through the U.N. program (and I did that, as well). My classes might not have focused specifically on the job I’m currently doing, but learning something from all of them helped me become the person I am today.