by Geoff Larcom, Published May 01, 2013
The realization came to Hiba Baghdadi as she became deeply involved in the Campus Life office at Eastern Michigan University.
"Oh, my god, you can do this for a living?" she said of working in student affairs, an area where the EMU senior can satisfy her powerful interest in meeting people and learning new things.
It's a distinct niche for Hiba (Hih-bah), a Muslim who balances a devoted home life, academics, her Islamic faith and numerous activities - an exciting, fulfilling mix.
"I decided that working with students is what I really liked," says Baghdadi, who plans to pursue a master's degree in student affairs at Eastern. "It's a good feeling to know you can help them."
Her new interest required some explaining to her family, however.
Her father, who works for Ford Motor Company, had grown up in France and Algeria, where the notion of student affairs wasn't a major part of college life.
"No, this is not just a phase," Baghdadi remembers telling her father and her mother, who works as a teacher in Ann Arbor.
Yet there are challenges, including a lack of Muslim student role models in student affairs. Baghdadi shared those elements of her life during her presentation at the recent TEDxEMU educational event at Eastern.
Baghdadi noted how her hijab, the scarf many Muslim women wear, is central to her identity as a Muslim, and how it keeps her rooted in a proud sense of identity and place.
During her first year, Baghdadi, now a senior, quickly fell in love with EMU. She became hooked after her campus tour guide, an energetic and charismatic EMU student named Chris Knight, offered a fascinating list of campus programs.
Baghdadi followed through over the next four years, immersing herself in activities such as LeaderShape, an intensive six-day leadership retreat where she found deep connections and meaningful conversations with other bright and committed students.
"I'm very extroverted," Baghdadi says. "I like meeting people."
She credits Casey Jordan, a program coordinator for Greek and student life at EMU, with continuing to nudge her out of the college comfort zone.
"Hiba is one of the hardest working students I have met," Jordan says. "She does the work in Campus Life with passion and a genuine interest in helping make the experience of fellow students better. "
Baghdadi says of Jordan, "She pushed me to do more things, to stretch myself even more, such as organizing different programs outside of my initial job description.
"My involvement at EMU has truly changed me."
Hometown: Ypsilanti. Born in France and lived in Saudi Arabia before the family moved to the area.
Status: Senior at EMU
Major: Political science and history
EMU student organizations: Muslim Student Association, Sigma Delta Tau sorority, Campus Life, Student Senate, Honors College.
Quote: "I decided that working with students is what I really liked. It's a good feeling to know you can help them."