Cronkite graduate wants to improve news anchor diversity


May 2, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Fatma Abid never thought she’d study journalism, let alone be honored as an Outstanding Graduate Student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s spring 2022 convocation ceremony. Fatma Abid “When people see someone like me reading the news, when they see someone in a headscarf, they're kind of forced to confront their own conceptions about people like me. And while it's not comfortable, I think that's a really important thing,” said Cronkite School Outstanding Graduate Student Fatma Abid. Download Full Image

Growing up, Abid excelled at math and science. Being from Bangladesh, Abid said many first-generation South Asian immigrants encourage their children to pursue medical or engineering careers.

When she chose to attend Cronkite, however, Abid was met with overwhelming support, especially from her parents. 

“I was really surprised and happy to hear that people in my community were so encouraging of someone like me to represent our community,” Abid said.

She realized her biggest obstacle was herself. Now, as a student graduating with a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication, Abid’s goal is to see more people like her anchoring the news.

“When people see someone like me reading the news, when they see someone in a headscarf, they're kind of forced to confront their own conceptions about people like me. And while it's not comfortable, I think that's a really important thing,” Abid said.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: Aha moments, unfortunately, didn’t come until very recently. It was not until this semester when I was named an anchor for Cronkite News. During the auditions, I was standing in front of the camera and I thought I would be really nervous because there’s a lot of people watching and it’s a lot of pressure. I was reading the teleprompter, and it felt like everything else faded away. I was like, OK, like I was meant to do this. It took away all that uncertainty and doubt. And that was very rewarding. It came really late, but I'm glad that it did come eventually.

Q: What’s something you learned while at Arizona State University — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: In my JMC 201 class, one of my professors was helping us learn how to write stories. He gave us the example of a woman, like a zookeeper, who died at a zoo from an animal. The details were given, and we were supposed to write a story from that. He said something along the lines of “Don’t write ‘Tragic death at the zoo.’ Tragic implies subjectivity.”

And I just remember being floored, thinking, so this is what journalists do. We don't put our own feelings into work. We try to take the news and share it as truthfully as possible. And I think that was just a moment where I was like, OK, this is what it means to be objective. That's something that stuck with me.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: My brothers are all currently at ASU. And luckily we were all able to get a scholarship. Journalism was definitely really out of left field for me, but my family and parents, especially my dad, were supportive. They were like, “You're good at writing, and it’s important for our community. Why don't you try journalism?”

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: As Dory says, just keep swimming. When you’re in school, it feels like it’s never-ending. And no matter how much people tell you these are the best years of your life and it’s going to fly by, when you’re in it, you’re really in it. My advice is that if you push through, the finish line is so worth every struggle and uncertainty you have.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: I would study in the library by myself, whether that was on the Tempe campus at Noble (Library) or downtown in one of the study rooms. There’s something peaceful about being by myself. You’re always around people at college, which is fun, but it’s nice sometimes just to take a moment and step back.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: In all honesty, to take a bit of a short break. I definitely want to recharge and then either try for a multimedia journalist job and then move on to news anchoring, or try for a news anchoring position.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Something that's always been important to me is foster care in this country. I've grown up knowing that it’s not a great system. The people are doing their best with the resources they have, but there's so many kids struggling in the system that sometimes fall through it, end up on the streets or just aren't taken care of. Putting money towards it and working with the experts in the field to try to think of innovations for this system is something I’d want to do.

Written by Olivia McCann, brand engagement and communications aide for the Cronkite School 

Thunderbird grad uses degree to propel venture of serving communities in need


May 2, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Ashraf A. Ismail began his Master of Global Management (MGM) at the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University the way many did — online during the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he still found himself connected to — and inspired by — his classmates from around the world. Ashraf Atif Ismail Abdelrazig Ashraf A. Ismail graduates this spring with a Master in Global Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU. Download Full Image

“The whole student body was joining from different time zones, but the program was still so seamless and smooth. Everyone was still engaged and didn’t skip a beat,” the Thunderbird SHARE Fellow said. “It was then when I knew the Fourth Industrial Revolution isn’t something that is just talked about here — rather, it is truly pioneered.”

As a native of Sudan and the son of a political refugee, Ismail is passionate about using his MGM to further serve communities in need and provide quality education to refugees. He founded Knowledge Ark (KnowArk), a startup that helps refugees thrive educationally and earn a globally recognized high school diploma, receive vocational training or learn a new language.

He also notes Thunderbird and ASU’s 100 Million Learners Initiative as something he hopes to contribute to in the future. Read on for more.

Question: Where are you from and why did you decide to enroll at Thunderbird? 

Answer: I’m from Sudan, and I joined Thunderbird after my childhood friend (since the fourth grade) recommended it. He’s also an alumnus who always spoke greatly about his experience. He often describes his experience as life-changing. After having gone through the program, I can see what he means because this school has truly changed my life. 

Q: What do you love about being a T-bird?

A: Grace and humility. Despite being a No. 1-ranked program, everyone is so humble and hard-working. They want to live up to the ranking more than they want to brag about it. Each and every T-bird wants to give back to the school as much as they want to take from it.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I run (KnowArk) that is poised to give access to education to 250,000 refugees by 2030. If I had $40 million, I’d definitely use that money to accelerate our mission and further contribute to the 100 Million Learners Initiative the university embarked on.

Q: What has your experience at Thunderbird been like?

A: Thunderbird is truly a microcosm of the world. As someone who’s from Sudan, I’d be in a classroom where the person to my right is from Peru, the one to my left is from Japan, the one in front of me is from the Netherlands and the one behind me is from Australia. However, they are all relentlessly trying to find ways to collaborate and learn from one another. It is the true embodiment of the school’s motto: “Borders frequented by trade seldom need soldiers.” The experience at Thunderbird isn’t just “one-liners” that are used for marketing purposes; rather, it is a holistic experience that these one-liners try to capture a very small part of.

Mary Hess

Digital communications specialist, Thunderbird School of Global Management