Salma Hussein.

Salma Hussein (MNLEND, 2012–13), recently selected as a 2021 Bush Fellow, will use the $100,000 fellowship to complete her doctorate degree in educational leadership and continue the non-profit organization she runs with her sister, Fatimah, the Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sport (GIRLS).

“Education is the great equalizer, but it isn’t free,” said Salma, who earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Minnesota in 2013, when she also completed the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities. “Being a person of color, I know it’s just reality that a lot of us carry a lot of debt. Through this grant, I’ll be able to continue my studies and then work to help others close the opportunity gap as well.”

After spending nearly five years as a school social worker, Hussein became an assistant principal for Central Senior High School in Saint Paul last summer. She will begin her doctorate degree program this fall at Hamline University.

“I always remind people I’m a social worker first. I make sure people see me and know I’m available,” she said. “One student came up to me and told me how annoying I am because I’m always in the hallways. I tell the students they are my boss and that they need to tell me what they need to be successful. I really believe in servant leadership.”

That frame of reference runs strong in Hussein’s family. In addition to Fatimah, with whom she started GIRLS while the sisters were in high school, their brother Musse is currently studying at University of Minnesota Medical School. Another brother, Ahmed, has a condition known as adrenoleukodystrophy, a metabolic disorder that affects brain function.  

“Ahmed inspired all of us to be better, and to serve and support,” Salma said.