Iman Mohamed (BA ’14) is a community leader, policy professional and researcher. After graduating from York’s political science program, Iman applied her education to help create positive change and empower vulnerable communities.
Why did you choose to study at York? Could you describe how your university’s experience has helped launched what you do now?
I chose to study at York because of the progressive faculty and subject matter. As a curious-minded individual, the professors I met in the political science program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies helped stretch my understanding of politics. In my program, I was able to pick courses that I was interested in and learn about various disciplines within the field. However, what I learned in the Introduction to Refugee and Migration Studies course at York provided the foundation I needed in my work with a non-profit organization called Skills for Change as an employment specialist. The teaching assistant who taught the course opened my eyes to the issues faced by newcomers in Canada, and it challenged me to think about how we can create and use programs and policies to support this marginalized group. I used what I learned in class to design employment programs that cater to the needs of newcomers and teach them important skills to be successful professionals in their workplaces.
What motivates you to volunteer and create positive change?
Volunteering is important to me because I want to ensure that newcomers have the tools to be successful in Canada. My volunteer commitment to the Somali Canadian Association of Etobicoke is an example where I can directly support my community. Our organization is proud to offer free legal advice to protect those in precarious and vulnerable spaces and empower individuals with the knowledge of their rights. During the pandemic, the rise in food insecurity is becoming a more prevalent issue. As a response to this problem, our association was able to give away free fifty-dollar grocery gift cards to families who were in need. The trust that I gained from the community that I volunteered in has been extremely rewarding and motivates me to help as many people as I can.
Can you recall a tough moment, and how did you overcome it?
In the newcomer community, there is a lack of trust directed towards institutions and their ability to support their needs. Because of my intersectional identity as a Somali-Canadian woman, I can navigate through this space and create opportunities for me to gain their trust. In order to build trust, I need to be authentic and genuine with my relationships with the community by sharing my journey while actively listening to their needs and stories too. During my time at Skills for Change, I needed newcomers who came into my employment program to trust that I would help support them in their job application and to see through this process to the end. More often than not, I was their job reference for their application and first friend in Canada, so I was happy to be part of their journey. Because of the mutual trust that I built with those in my program, it has been amazing to witness participants’ life change and share their joy in gaining work experience in Canada.
With your busy schedule, how do you find time for yourself?
It is important to stay organized, so you can intentionally carve out time in your busy schedule to set time for self-care. During my self-care days, I treat myself to comfort food, a face mask and relaxing to a reality TV show like my personal favourite, RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Congratulations on being selected as one of York’s Top 30 Changemakers Under 30! What does this recognition mean to you?
This recognition means a lot to me because it is from York University. I hold many fond memories during my studies and have made amazing relationships with amazing classmates from my program. To be recognized by the school that has made a positive impact on my life is an honour. I would not have experienced my early-career success if it was not for York. Truthfully, I am shocked to hear that I am part of the first cohort! I thought the University would have this type of recognition already; nonetheless, I am truly thankful for being part of the Top 30 Changemakers Under 30.
What advice would you offer to prospective or current students?
I would say picking York will be the best decision of your life! The University gave me opportunities to build lasting relationships with my professors and classmates while discovering myself as an individual. Also, the food on campus is great! I’d recommend ordering the spicy mayo sauce with your nuggets or sandwich at the Popeyes located in York Lanes!