Sophomore Zainab Adamou-Mohamed was a self-described “naturally quiet person” when she began her studies at UNC Greensboro. That hasn’t stopped her from emerging as a leader in and outside the classroom.
Adamou-Mohamed credits the Lloyd International Honors College, its Reynolds Scholar program and her involvement with the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement and the Muslim Students Association for helping her make friends, build leadership skills, serve her community, broaden her perspective and give back.
“I believe in helping create something bigger than myself and being helpful toward others in their times of need,” she says. “Also, learning from others … I think it goes both ways.”
Art as Civic Engagement
Adamou-Mohamed aims for a career as a freelancer or with nonprofits. She’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in studio art, focusing on graphic design and photography.
“My favorite medium is anything digital art-related, but I also enjoy pen and ink,” she says. “Art helps me to express myself. It can be hard to figure out how to say verbally what I’m feeling, so doing art allows me to show my personality.”
Adamou-Mohamed’s increasingly interested in how she can use art to share ideas on issues she’s passionate about.
“I’ve been looking into social justice-related art and art that highlights different communities that are underrepresented — so for example, art that focuses on immigrants and their stories,” she says.
Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
Adamou-Mohamed is herself the daughter of immigrants from Niger. By example, she says, they encouraged her to live a life of service to others.
“My parents give back to the community and have ever since they arrived in the United States,” she says. “Both of my parents have worked at different nonprofits, and aside from their professional work, they also help other people in the immigrant community.”
Being at UNCG, Adamou-Mohamed says, has given her an even greater sense of purpose. She’s already done volunteer work for three nonprofits and is eager for more. And she’s gaining leadership skills by serving as the president of UNCG’s Muslim Students Association and on the honors college’s scholars programming board.
Decision Time: ‘UNCG’s Honor Program Stood Apart’
For Adamou-Mohamed, the decision to go to college was easy, and so was the decision to stay in her hometown and go to UNCG.
“A lot of times I get asked why I decided to pursue a college degree,” she says. “I would say a big part of my ‘why’ is my parents, who began their education back in West Africa and then came to the U.S. to continue it. By example, they taught me that education is a way to not only pursue knowledge but to pursue a better life for yourself and your family.”
Two factors were key in Adamou-Mohamed’s decision to attend UNCG: the honors college and the Reynolds Scholarship.
“The honors college’s emphasis on global study stood apart,” she says. “It really teaches you how interconnected we all are and also how big the world is and how there’s so much more to discover in your area of study.”
An Artist and a Scholar
The Reynolds Scholarship helped ease the financial burden her family would have incurred for her to get a four-year degree. The $37,000 scholarship helps pay for tuition and fees and stipends for study abroad, community service and internships.
She interned in Summer 2023 with Democracy North Carolina, a nonprofit that strengthens democratic structures, builds power among disenfranchised communities and more. There, she says, she finetuned her communication and social media skills, visited one-on-one with state legislators, and had the chance to inform others about voting rules.
Adamou-Mohamed says the internship was a perfect complement to her studies toward a minor in rhetoric and public advocacy.
Overall, she says, her experiences at UNCG have made her more of a leader.
“Getting into these opportunities early on in college has pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she adds. “It’s pushed me to do things that might scare me – whether that’s learning how to sell an idea or to propose an idea and see it all the way through.”
Story by Dee Shore
Pictures courtesy of Zainab Adamou-Mohamed
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