Urwa Hameed '22
Your Voice Can Be Powerful
I was born and raised in Pakistan, where I attended school until I immigrated to Vernon, Connecticut in middle school. My paternal family hailed from India, and my maternal grandparents were from Pakistan, which afforded me a unique opportunity to grow up in an intercultural background. As I grew up in rural Multan, I learned to speak Punjabi from my friends, Urdu from the elementary school I attended, Hindi from my paternal grandmother, Arabic from my religious tutor, and English from my father.
When I started at Boston College, I knew I was going to be part of a minority as a woman of color at a predominantly white institution (PWI), but that propelled me even more to attend BC and change the status quo. In my sophomore year, I was elected to the Senator-at-large seat, representing the interests of undergraduates in the student government. In my junior year, I was elected as the chair of intersectionality, where I continue to passionately advocate for minority rights such as Indigenous People’s Day, LGBTQ+ Housing, Montserrat students, and students with disability. Time and time again, I represent the interests of AHANA+ students in a student government where there are not enough AHANA+ voices sharing the table with me.
In the month preceding winter break of 2020, I reached a pivotal point in my life which propelled me to run for President of the student body. In its 158-year history, Boston College has never had two women of color lead its student government. This was the fundamental motivation for Sarah Henao and me to run for office, and as it turned out later, the reason many students supported our candidacy. Drawing from our experiences as women of color, we ran a campaign rooted in intersectionality, activism, and institutional change to transform our student government from a passive organization into an active one. Amidst a strong push by BC students, we took up the seemingly impossible task of convincing BC to divest its endowment [from certain market segments and stocks]. This was the precise moment when I realized that passion and activism are just as crucial as a concrete plan to push historical legislation.
At the end of the campaign we received over 1,000 votes and a tremendous amount of support for our policies, our instagram platform, our interactive videos, and our strong voices on the presidential debate stage. Every day I received scores of text messages from students I hadn't met, wanting to help out in the campaign, rooting for us, and ultimately voting for us. Just six years ago, I was a teenager who stepped foot in the United States not even having a proper command of the English language, and here I was at a PWI as one of the most popular presidential candidates in 2020. Although we were the runners-up in the presidential election, let this journey be a reminder of how powerful your voice can be once you choose to raise it.
Supported by a Legacy Grant and a Frontier Fellowship from BC, I am now in the in the process of writing and publishing a book that highlights the underrepresentation of women in politics. I am the recipient of Boston College’s prestigious Thomas Aquinas Social Activism Award. I am establishing Boston College’s very first social activism student organization here at campus. Over the next few months, I plan on applying for law school and pursuing an LLB/JD right after graduation.
If there is one last message I would like you to take away from my experience here at Boston College is this: Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire!
Urwa Hameed ’22