NORTON, MA—Leadership and teaching have been constants in Nadila Yusuf’s life, starting in high school.
During those years, as she worked through her own cultural and religious identity crisis as an Islamic Bangladeshi-American attending a predominantly white Catholic high school, she was the one to take the lead by founding a multicultural club to help her peers learn about and embrace diversity. And during her four years at Wheaton, teaching has been an integral part of her experiences—in settings from Rhode Island to Ghana.
All of the experiences have paid off. Yusuf, a Flushing, N.Y., resident, has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Bangladesh.
As a teacher in Dhaka, Bangladesh, she plans to create inventive lessons and programs through group projects aimed at fostering academic development, interaction and a peer-to-peer learning environment.
“Receiving the English Teaching Assistantship will allow me to continue to pursue my goals as an educator and fuel my passion to work with youth and young adults in a variety of settings,” said Yusuf, a sociology major.
The Posse Scholar has been actively involved on campus while at Wheaton, as a senior resident advisor, an Admission intern, and the former co-president of the Distinguished Women of Color Collective. She also has made great use of her summers, gaining a wide variety of experience.
One summer, she was a dean at the Sadie Nash Leadership Project in New York, a nonprofit organization that promotes leadership among young women—work she plans to continue in Bangladesh during her Fulbright.
She was a community organizer for Desis Rising Up & Moving in New York, where she taught community organizing techniques to South Asian high school immigrants from low-income neighborhoods.
“Working with this particular population challenged me,” Yusuf wrote in her Fulbright proposal. “I had difficulty relating to the youth I worked with because I did not face their economic challenges, nor share any of their problems.”
However, as the summer progressed, she learned ways to become an ally and realized that any differences between them could not hinder the type of relationship she wanted to develop with them.
“My success as an educator became apparent when they thanked me for teaching them how to become successful youth organizers in their communities,” she said.
During the summer of 2008, she had her first major international experience in Ghana, where she studied NGO development and taught English at an NGO-affiliated orphanage. In 2009, she was an eighth grade literacy teacher for the Breakthrough Collaborative in Providence, R.I. The challenge of trying to motivate students and adjusting to different learning styles pushed her to be more innovative as a teacher, she noted.
Her experience in Morocco studying and conducting independent research was a significant inspiration in her desire to want to teach English.
“Although I grew up in a bilingual household, it was not until my study abroad experience in Morocco that I learned how valuable language ability is,” said Yusuf, who also speaks Bengali. “In Morocco, being able to speak two or more languages helped many Moroccans and provided access to numerous opportunities for employment and advanced education.
“Teaching English in Bangladesh will allow me to play a role in helping students to have multiple options. At the same, it also will allow me to return to my ethnic community and deliver an educational service.”
Yusuf pointed out that majoring in sociology at Wheaton has prepared her well for what is ahead and helped on a personal level as well.
“Sociology allowed me to develop conversations and gain insight on racial and ethnic theories; in addition, it also put into context connections between history and current events I learned in the past,” she said. “My major taught me that each identity has a rich history that becomes uncovered through time. Perhaps, most importantly, the discipline helped me think critically of my identity and find answers to the questions I posed during my adolescent years.”