Halimatou Hima Moussa Dioula ’10, who is working at UNICEF Niger, finds her work to be challenging, humbling, and special.
“Halima,” as she likes to be called, an International Relations major at Wellesley, as well as an Albright Fellow, is from Niamey and Arlit, Niger.
Special update: Halima gives TEDx Talk on "Investing in Girls" on April 2, 2013.
What are you currently doing?
I currently work as a full-time consultant at UNICEF Niger, an experience that is challenging, humbling, and special. It’s challenging, for it forces me to assess my life in relation to where I have come from; it’s humbling, for in some of the unlikeliest of place, I have seen innovation, resilience, and talent; it’s special, because in my work many women and girls have welcomed me into their lives and homes, an honor that has helped me deepen my understanding of challenges they face.
What are your future plans?
Meeting with people in highly precarious situations, I have come to realize that the opportunities I have been graced with charge me with the responsibility to give back and to contribute to our perpetual quest for human development. Which is why I aspire to a career in public service and policy to bring about change in Niger. My hope is to give women and girls the means to empower themselves and opportunity to achieve their highest potential.
What made you choose Wellesley?
Choosing Wellesley was a process, and not an easy one; I hesitated a lot because the idea of a women’s college sounded strange to me, and Wellesley was not my top choice. Yet, I constantly heard from people (that I respected) how remarkable Wellesley was. My economics professor at the United World College (UWC) told me that some of the most outstanding women he knew had gone to Wellesley. “There is something about a Wellesley woman that you do not quite see in others; it is an extraordinary school,” he told me. “I think you should email a representative of the school.”
I contacted Wellesley’s international students’ advisor. She responded (almost immediately) with utmost respect, gave me all the information I needed, and connected me to a few other people. There was a level of care and respect that I found appealing, but what definitely made my decision lean toward Wellesley was what I heard from Wellesley students. They talked about leadership, opportunities, great financial aid, engaging classes, personal growth, diversity, and they emphasized how Wellesley is geared towards supporting, encouraging, and empowering women. I also vividly recall what a friend from UWC at a nearby school said, “Halima, if I were a woman, I would want to be at Wellesley. If you are looking for a place to grow as a leader, it is Wellesley you should be looking toward.”
My choice came down to two schools; I picked the one that would help me grow and achieve my highest potential in an environment that respected my person and encouraged my initiatives. I chose Wellesley and never looked back. Wellesley surpassed my every expectation.
What surprised you about Wellesley?
I can never be grateful enough about how much Wellesley cared for my wellbeing, invested so much in my academic career, and believed in my potential. When I was homesick, I could land at Slater International Center anytime to cook, watch movies with friends, and simply improvise an informal get-together. In a place thousands of miles from home, I found in Slater Center a home away from home where we also organized lectures and celebrated about every international holiday from Eid to Chinese New Year and Diwali.
Wellesley is also the place that does not shy away from investing in you so that you succeed—however you define success. My first year, I interned with BELL, Building Educated Leaders for Life, in Baltimore; sophomore year, I interned on Capitol Hill with the Washington Decision Making Program; junior year, I studied abroad in London and then went on a Wintersession trip to Jamaica; and senior year, as one of the 40 Albright Fellows, I interned in Washington, D.C., which led me to my current job at UNICEF Niger.
Wellesley has an infinite amount of possibilities for students in any field, and the level of investment into student-led initiatives is remarkable. As part of our activities for the African Students’ Association (WASA), we organized an annual cultural show, lectures, and film festivals with full financial support from the College. And my sophomore year, when I joined a group of students to co-found Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance, today a global network, Wellesley was among the first institutions that believed in our idea.
What was the most important resource you used?
Wellesley professors are exceptional; you can tell they love what they do because they teach with passion and purpose. Classes are so engaging that students take in-class discussions outside of class, so academic hallways are vibrant. I also loved that professors are accessible outside of class; I have built close relationships with some of my professors that mentored and supported me throughout my journey at Wellesley (and beyond). I found in my professors people that challenged me, believed in my ability (even when I doubted myself), and made me believe in myself. Wellesley has several little treasures including a beautiful campus with a lake, nice dorms, massive libraries, the Lulu, but Wellesley professors are the best among all treasures!
What’s the practical value of your education?
Wellesley was, for me, a perfect life laboratory. I tried everything I could get my hands on: I failed on some initiatives and succeeded in others. In all my various leadership positions, I made a conscious effort to pinpoint my shortcomings. I questioned myself and worked steadily to surmount personal limitations. I acquired lifelong skills that I use every day. When I sit with partners at the discussion table or converse with a women’s group on a mat, I am able to clearly communicate my ideas and propose a road map for achieving our goals. This ability to plan, communicate, mediate, and create a common vision (in a group of widely different interests) is something that I have developed at Wellesley.
What advice would you give to a prospective student?
To those who have already received acceptance letters: Do not base your choice on preconceived ideas; remain open to the possibly of “new” concepts like a woman’s college. Be proactive and email (or even call) people in the schools that have accepted you in order to make informed decisions. Listen to what alumnae/i have to say about the school (although every student’s experience is unique; hearing other people’s perspectives gives you good insights). Most importantly, be honest with yourself: choose a school that you think will help you be your very best!