At KU, Shegufta Huma found her voice as an activist for social justice.
But moments after being named a 2017 Rhodes Scholar, she found herself speechless.
Huma managed to text three words — I GOT IT — to her family and friends but remembers that the most meaningful words came from her father.
Shegufta Huma is KU’s 27th Rhodes Scholar.
The scholarship will cover her graduate work at the Refugee Studies Centre of the University of Oxford in England.
“One of the first things my dad said to me is that he wished he could tell my grandpa,” she says. “My grandpa would have been prouder than anyone.”
Huma’s grandfather died when she was a child, but he was the one who had convinced her parents to move from Bangladesh to the United States when she was a year old. “My grandpa was a huge proponent of education,” she says. “He had a vision of what he wanted his granddaughters to achieve, and knew it would only be possible in a place like the U.S.”
Huma has found opportunity in the United States but also opposition. Her experience as a Muslim woman coming of age in a post-9/11 world motivates her activism on behalf of Muslim immigrants.
Now a KU senior majoring in political science, Huma says it wasn’t until college that she put language to the discrimination she felt or realized she could be part of the solution. When she was a sophomore, she founded the Imagine Coalition, an advocacy group for marginalized students.
“I have hypervisibility — I just stick out, no matter where I go,” she says. “If I’m going to be put in the spotlight, I may as well advocate for the things I care about.”
Huma plans to dedicate her efforts to redefining “refugee,” a term that currently does not include people forcibly displaced because of climate change.
The issue hits close to home for Huma, who has witnessed the negative effects of rising sea levels in her family’s village in Bangladesh.