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Mentor is Ambassador for Faith, Unity

When senior Nadeen Mustafa decided to start wearing a hijab, or tradition Muslim veil, she recalled an Islamic saying that says women are like jewels. One doesn’t put their jewels out on a table, one put’s them in a jewelry box.

“I love that concept,” Mustafa said. “I think that a lot of the time women don’t know how precious they are. We give life. How amazing is that? How divine. Every time I see someone who has insecurity issues or is not fulfilling their potential, it inspires me to let them know how precious they are. That is one of my daily initiatives.”

Mustafa, a University of St. Thomas international development major and finance and economics minor, tries to be an ambassador, not only her for native Libya, but for all people.

“We’re all called to be ambassadors one way or another – ambassadors of our faith, our University and of our country,” she said. “If we keep that attitude every day, then we all are role models. We get to represent all these different multi-faceted entities. I’m trying really hard to represent Libyan women and college women at St. Thomas.”

Educated in Catholic schools for eight years, having attended high school at St. Agnes Academy in Houston, Mustafa, at only 21 years old, is on the board for the Libyan American Organization, the ambassador for Libya on the World Affairs Council, a mentor with Interfaith Ministries and an active member with UST’s Society of Macrina. Connecting with these groups in the United States has allowed Mustafa to help impact, not only her three younger siblings, but the St. Thomas campus community.

“For me, coming from Libya where there is the 42-year dictatorship, there’s been a lot of alienation in the past,” she said. “St. Thomas has been super supportive. Over here, I felt a little disenfranchised, like I can’t help, but I remember walking around campus with my Libya flag as a cape and everyone from professors to students asking how they could help. That support was overwhelming.”

Dr. Hans Stockton, director of the Center for International Studies, associate professor and Cullen Trust for Higher Education/Fayez Sarofim Chair in International Studies, has been her biggest advocate. As her mentor and advisor, she said Stockton’s encouragement and support, especially during the Libyan Revolution in 2011, has been invaluable to her success. He recommended her for the World Council, and she uses her time in her various organizations to influence others.

“The organizations I’m working with, it’s not just about events or these places you’re working at – it’s about your daily interactions,” Mustafa said. “It’s the way you treat people and the fact that everyone has potential. Everyone has an unfound gift that they are called to share. If you look at people that way, you’ll always see someone as valuable.”

After two study abroad trips to France and Taiwan, classes every summer and countless events in the community, Mustafa is graduating from St. Thomas in December in three and a half short years. Her determination and involvement in the UST community recently earned her an Alumni Association Student Award.

“I’ve worked hard, but I’ve never felt like I’m in pain through this journey,” she said. “It’s been fun because I’m learning. International studies is my life story, and finding a major that illustrates your interests makes a dream easier.”

She is applying for graduate school and said St. Thomas has groomed her for curriculums in human development and diplomacy.

“I have a great world view, and I really do attribute it to some of the classes I’ve taken here at University of St. Thomas,” she said. “My preparation has taken away some of the burden and anxiety of the next transition. I’m filled with gratitude for that.”

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