Class of 2016
By Vicki Ikeogu
Originally published: Jan. 8, 2017
Experiencing the trauma of a civil war and leaving home for refuge and safety might leave some bitter, confused and frustrated.
"I grew up during a time where all Somalis were fighting in Somalia," said Hudda Ibrahim. "I've seen a lot of displacement. Some of my family members were killed during the war."
But anger and disappointment do not seem to be part of Hudda Ibrahim's vocabulary. In fact, it was those trying circumstances that fostered her current passion: a passion for peace. That puts her in a position to help a new part of the local economy succeed.
"I think the world is desperately in need of peace builders," Ibrahim said. "Especially right now."
Arriving in the U.S. at 19 with limited English skills, Ibrahim was determined to carry on her family's tradition of education.
It was at both the College of St. Benedict and the University of Notre Dame that Ibrahim discovered an interest in peace building.
And it is a skill set that she is determined to apply in Central Minnesota.
"I want to create a common ground," Ibrahim said. "And if we can work together and understand our similarities and also our differences, I think this community will be a better community for all."
Ibrahim is on the front lines of bridging the cultural gap in the community.
In addition to her role as an educator at St. Cloud Technical & Community College, Ibrahim is involved in countless community organizations to help Somali-Americans and other new immigrants transition into the community. She has also founded a business, Filsan Consultant LLC, to provide further guidance to the Somali business community on how to interact with customers from all cultural backgrounds.
That venture has earned Ibrahim a spot in the first cohort of the Initiators Fellowship program sponsored by the Initiative Foundation. This program will help Ibrahim receive training, financial support and mentorship as she works to further her business.
And Ibrahim is in the process of publishing a book, "Through Their Eyes: Experiences of the Somali Community in Central Minnesota" as a way to document the challenges and rewards Somali-Americans have experienced thus far in the area.
Because of her continued efforts to educate and provide resources to the growing immigrant community through volunteering, Ibrahim has been selected for the 5 Under 40 Class of 2016. The Times recently sat down with Ibrahim to discuss her continued involvement in the Central Minnesota community.
Question: Why peace studies? Why do you have a passion and drive for that particular area of study?
Answer: Because I want to build a community that lives together, regardless of their differences. And a community that comes together as a force of peace and coexistence and love. Peace building is not only a peace and war thing. If you don't have peace, then you don't have life. Safety, security. In peace building, one person cannot do it all. I understand that. But, you have to be that change. If you want to bring change, you have to start within. I wanted to be that person who changes the perspectives and wins the hearts and the minds of others.
Q: As Central Minnesota becomes more diverse, especially with the growing number of foreign-born residents, what steps have you taken so far to help those on both sides of the aisle?
A: I speak at churches and organizations. I'm heavily involved in terms of boards and organizations, educating and communicating and building that bridge between the community.
Q: As the area continues to change, where do you see yourself and your talents fitting into the larger scheme of things, especially within the next five years?
A: I have a strong background in peace building. And I remember taking some courses in Muslim/Christian dialogue, so I think that in our community, in this time and this era, we need to have a lot of interfaith groups and community forums and to come together and build that healthy community. I think those would be the areas that I would focus in on. And I will continue teaching and advising students and reaching out.
Q: You mentioned that "Through Their Eyes: Experiences of the Somali Community in Central Minnesota" is going to be one huge part of your legacy. Do you have any other aspects of a legacy that you would like to leave behind in the next 20 years?
A: Twenty years it's basically too far. I can predict the next five. Or maybe the next 10 years. I want to expand my consultant business. I want to expand this consulting business and maybe this will be a huge company where I will be covering the needs for people who are in Willmar or Marshall, or maybe Brainerd. So, I guess I will go wherever there is a need. I see myself as a bridge builder. I want to help. I want to make change. If we want to grow, if we want to live together peacefully, we need to be able to trust each other. I feel like that's an area where I would like to focus more. Building this community, bringing them together so they can build a relationship and trust. And when that happens I believe many, many doors will open.
Q: Who in your life has been an inspiration to you and what makes their qualities so special?
A: Professor Ron Pagnucco (associate professor of peace studies at College of St. Benedict/ St. John's University) is like family to me. He is not only a professor and a mentor, he is a person that I trust. He is the type of person who would not only advise me, but also offer me a different perspective. He's the person I go and first consult with. I think he is my hero. Then my siblings are also supportive. I have this one person who happens to be the love of my life, Abdi Mahad. He's really supportive and he inspires me and encourages me to reach higher. I also have other great people in my life. President Helens (Joyce Helens, president of St. Cloud Technical & Community College) is one of them. She's a great leader and when I grow up, I want to be like her.
Q: What advice would you give to other professionals, especially young professionals, who are starting their career journey?
A: First of all, get out of your comfort zone. Look for mentors. They won't come to your door and knock. You have to knock on their door. Reach out to people. Attend community forums, meetings and reach out to people. Learn what's out there. And explore.
Occupation: Instructor of diversity and social justice; adviser of foreign-born students in admissions at St. Cloud Technical & Community College. Owner of Filsan Consultant LLC.
Education: Bachelor's degree in peace studies and English from College of St. Benedict and a master's degree in international peace studies from University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana.
Family: Brothers Khalid, 30, Ilyas, 28, and Ali, 26; sisters Suad, 29 and Maryann, 24.
Hometown: Mogadishu, Somalia.
Community involvement: Board member of United Way of Central Minnesota, St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce diversity council vice chair, Cornerstone Center chair, Forum of Executive Women member, Greater St. Cloud Development Corp.'s talent initiative member, St. Cloud school district's board of education community linkage committee, St. Cloud Technical & Community College diversity committee member and participant in Central Minnesota Community Empowerment Organization.