I’ve always been interested in sports. As an athlete (soccer, lacrosse), it’s challenging trying to adhere to both my religious needs and team requirements. I was always an outsider because of my headscarf and uniform adjustments, but if it meant playing the sport, I would make the necessary changes. A lot of girls don’t feel they can do that, so they stop playing. I just kept advocating for myself, wearing a headscarf, being proud of who I am as a Muslim woman. I recognized my religion and faith did not have to impact how far I made it.
At the collegiate level, the system isn’t really set up for first-generation students, students of color, Muslim students, to be successful athletically. I realized to change the game, you have to know the game, so I started looking at policy.
When I graduated, COVID eliminated opportunities with sports teams, so I took a role with an Islamic women empowerment organization. I thought if I can’t be in sports I would love to give back to my community and build myself up as a Muslim leader, engage in policy and legislative sessions, and educate other women on doing the same. Then the Minnesota Twins reached out with a community engagement job. They were really looking for my policy, legislative, and diversity, equity, and inclusion experience. It was an opportunity to do policy work, but in sports. I was able to create opportunities for communities that would normally be overlooked.
Recently, through a Philadelphia Eagles diversity leadership program, I learned about other professional opportunities in sports. I would love to pursue that path after Duke. I came here to better my skills in policy and DEI, to create policies that are inclusive and tackle obstacles for people of color, women of color, Muslim women to break into spaces like the sports industry. I’m excited to take more related classes next year and learn how I can start changing those policies and creating those spaces.”
-Aaisha Abdullahi, MPP ’23, on the intersection of her identities, sports passion, and interest in policy #HumansofDukeSanford #MPP