The University of Iowa

In the news: Continuing the cycle of mentorship

February 20th, 2020

Emily Wilson, Iowa Now

Nora Yahia was the first woman in her family to graduate from college, and the University of Iowa alumna served as an early role model for her niece, Tartil Ali. The fourth-year student who was born in Sudan and moved to West Des Moines at the age of 6 followed her aunt to Iowa City—and into her area of study, psychology.

“I used to come visit Nora, and she showed me the ropes and the resources that the university offered,” Ali says. “She helped build a path for me to feel like I could be successful in the future.”

Now Ali is paying the support she got from her aunt forward. As president of Women in STEM Ambassadors—a group of undergraduate women pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees—Ali helps organize K–12 and community outreach activities, plan professional-development opportunities, and provide services to local organizations.

Ali says it is empowering to provide support as well as receive it from other women like her on campus. She also enjoys seeing children’s eyes light up when she helps them with science activities.

“One of the reasons I got involved was because I wish I knew more people in STEM who had similar backgrounds and struggles as myself,” Ali says. “I want to show that you don’t have to fit a certain stereotype to succeed.”

Ali’s future plans include continuing to give back. After graduating in May, she intends to get a Master of Science, apply to medical school, and join an organization similar to Doctors Without Borders.

“Growing up in Sudan, I saw a lot of health disparities,” Ali says. “Health care can be poor, and a lot of doctors don’t have adequate training. Seeing that inspired me to make a difference not only for African communities but minorities in general. I want to be able to travel and give back to similar communities.”

Traveling with a group from the UI to the Dominican Republic over winter break to study health systems only encouraged Ali to continue along her path.