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Class of ’23: Fawzia Tahsin Writes for Change

Tahsin discusses her new book, its connections to her coursework at McIntire, and what lies ahead for her.

Fawzia Tahsin and Wafa Salah

Fawzia Tahsin and Wafa Salah

Graduating McIntire student Fawzia Tahsin is soon headed to Washington, DC, to take on her first full-time position, joining PwC as a Technology Consulting Associate. Yet she will remain heavily invested in those students she entrusts to follow in her footsteps: To that end, she leaves the University, imparting essential insights and actionable thoughts to guide UVA to continue becoming an increasingly open, welcoming place of learning and growth for everyone it serves.

The IT concentrator from Woodbridge, VA, is the co-author of a new book, Visibly and Invisibly Muslim on Grounds: Classroom, Culture, and Community at the University of Virginia. Written with Wafa Salah (A&S ’21), the title shares the accounts of multiple Muslim students who offer varied visions of Islam, while representing a diversity of its followers and its traditions as they explore the ways their identity has informed all aspects and complexities of their educational experience at UVA.

“Essentially, the question we wanted to answer with this book was ‘How does the rhetoric of tolerance and diversity, which is promoted by the University of Virginia, align with the Muslim student experience at UVA?’” Tahsin says, explaining that they also weighed the student experience against prevailing rhetoric around tolerance, as well as issues about student organizing and strategies the University could employ to respond to alleviate issues.

In aiming to provide these viewpoints for students, administrators, and faculty with her co-written book, Tahsin, a double major in Global Studies with a concentration in Global Public Health, believes that she is already using her Commerce education “for the common good” in producing this work, and in helping shape the future of UVA for the better.

Fawzia Tahsin and Wafa Salah presenting“By sharing the diverse experiences of Muslim students, I hope to increase awareness and promote a more accepting and inclusive environment for all students,” says Tahsin. “McIntire’s rigorous and interdisciplinary approach to business has provided me with a unique perspective to ensure the voices of marginalized communities will always have a platform to speak up and speak out. Going forward, I plan to continue using my Commerce education to make a positive impact on other underprivileged communities; writing this book has taught me that it’s difficult to address the needs of one marginalized community without addressing the needs of all marginalized communities, as a lot of our issues may overlap.”

Tahsin insists that her years at the Comm School have prepared her for her future by instilling in her the value of taking a less traveled road in order to drive meaningful change. “I believe that acting—even if it may seem small—is always better than being complacent. Through my Commerce education, I have learned the importance of being proactive and creating the change I want to see in the world,” she says.

We asked Tahsin more about her new book, its connections to her time at McIntire, and what lies ahead for her.

How did your Commerce education prove useful regarding writing and publishing your new book?

Researching and writing this book were strongly tied to my McIntire experience. As a student at the McIntire School of Commerce, I gained a deep understanding of how to analyze complex problems and communicate my ideas effectively. These skills were essential in researching and writing this book. In Comm, we learn a great deal about teamwork and collaboration when undertaking a project. I learned how to manage tight deadlines and communicate effectively with different stakeholders such as UVA students, professors, administration, and faculty. Working with Wafa allowed us to harness our individual strengths and collaborate to produce a truly significant piece of work. Commerce also taught me to be an effective writer and communicator, and to bring in an interdisciplinary perspective.

During ICE, in my third year, I gained valuable experience in curating an idea for a company using a multifaceted approach; this experience taught me the importance of incorporating different perspectives when creating a project. Additionally, I gained experience in post-publication facets such as marketing the book and financing our project by writing various grant proposals and budget sheets. Finally, with the help of my colleagues, Wafa and [English Professor] Steve [Parks], we developed a strategy to ensure that the book would circulate throughout the University and reach UVA faculty and administrators. This would help hold them accountable and encourage them to take action on the grievances expressed by many of the students in the book.

Moreover, I am part of the McIntire Commerce Cohort Program, which “aims to increase applications to the B.S. in Commerce Program from a diverse set of students, ensuring that future class profiles reflect McIntire’s ongoing mission to foster an inclusive community.” It was highly valuable, as it taught me the importance of having a diverse cohort of students in McIntire. The value of learning from your peers is truly one a kind. Additionally, from being a mentee to becoming a mentor in the program was a full-circle moment for me, as last year I was able to help first-years navigate the pre-Commerce terrain at UVA.

I also appreciated the impact that the former Director and Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Sadie Royal Collins and Sonia Jiménez, had on me as a first-year in the Cohort Program. They were genuine, helpful people who, with their guidance and mentorship, inspired me to apply to McIntire to achieve both my personal and professional career goals.

What are you looking forward to most?

I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life. Beyond consulting, I also want to utilize my public health degree and work with healthcare consulting or public health policy. As an alumnus, I hope I can give back to the UVA community with career mentorship and overall helping students, and specifically Muslim students, as much as I can. Coming into the Comm School, I didn’t see many students like myself in Commerce classes; sometimes I thought I was the only hijabi Muslim woman in the School. There was intense pressure to represent my community in a positive light. I realized the important of representation. How am I supposed to know something is possible when I have never seen someone like myself? Nevertheless, as mentioned before, McIntire has taught me to be a pioneer in community, even when it may seem impossible at first to accomplish something so grand. After all, if you were to tell incoming first-year Fawzia she could write a book, she would’ve been in disbelief. Something like that was not even imaginable. But it happened. With the proper resources and mentorship, even unimaginable things are always possible.

All in all, as I approach graduation, I am excited to take the lessons I learned from creating this book with me as I embark on the next chapter of my life. I am looking forward to utilizing the skills and experiences I gained from this project to contribute positively to my future endeavors. I am eager to continue to listen and understand others’ stories, recognizing that this shared experience can lead to meaningful connections and positive change in the world. This project has been a highlight of my time at UVA, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been part of it.

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