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Bronco culture sustains them: Refugee students at Boise State

Halima Hamud has been awarded the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship for her tremendous academic success and leadership accomplishments. Hamud will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science degree in May 2022 and is Boise State’s fifth Truman scholar, Photo by Priscilla Grover

Born in 1998 in the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya, Halima Hamud arrived in America as a 9-year-old refugee in 2009. A child of Somali parents, Hamud attended the College of Western Idaho before transferring to Boise State. She will graduate in the spring of 2022 with a political science degree. She’s eyeing what comes next.

“I’m thinking about what I want for my graduate program. I’m thinking about my future. My education doesn’t have to end,” she said.

Students like Hamud may face cultural, language or other barriers to higher education. A growing network of Boise State resources helps them thrive and acclimate to campus life.

Boise State’s Multilingual Student Alliance helps current and prospective refugee students succeed academically. The TRIO Rising Scholars program offers additional academic assistance to students from underrepresented backgrounds. English Language Support Programs provide language tutoring and a chance for multilingual students to engage with each other. One Refugee, a Utah-based nonprofit organization, delivers mentoring, professional development and financial support to first-time students from refugee backgrounds.

The goal is to give every student the same opportunity to participate and succeed in the university community, said Andrea Orozco, senior admissions counselor and coordinator for multicultural recruitment.

“These students come with their own experiences and backgrounds, and those experiences enrich the classroom, not only for them but for our whole student population,” she said.

Monte Wilson, a Boise State geology professor who retired in 1998, and his wife Helen Grainger, a
former adjunct in Boise State’s art department, recently established the Wilson-Grainger Scholarship for refugee students entering the university from a community college.

“It’s helpful for all students to see a good cross section of our society and to be exposed to people from other cultures,” Wilson said.

Hamud wants to attend graduate school to study international relations with a focus on East Africa and continue to learn Swahili.

“As for a career, I want to be in a leadership position where I develop and advocate for policies on gender equality, peace, security and women’s economic empowerment around the world,” Hamud said.

More about Hamud:

Halima Hamud is a 2021 recipient of a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, one of 62 scholars selected this year out of a record number of 845 candidates.

A first-generation college student and AmeriCorps VISTA alumna, Hamud co-founded the first African Student Association at Boise State. She advocates for English language learners, refugees, and first-generation students. She is a community leader who elevates marginalized voices through grassroots campaigns and work with local nonprofits. Hamud is a Micron Academy for Inclusive Leadership Scholar, a TRIO Rising Scholar and a McNair Scholar.