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ASU grad, Dean's Medalist breaks out of shell during senior year


Portrait of student in front of Old Main on Tempe campus

Ahmed Wali is graduating as a Dean's Medalist from ASU's School of Social Transformation with a degree in justice studies, a minor in civic and economic thought leadership, and a certificate in both African and African American studies and socio-legal studies. Courtesy photo

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April 15, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

As a student who began his college career the same year as the COVID-19 outbreak, Ahmed Wali wasn’t sure he was going to get the traditional college experience.

Even when classes were going back in person during his third year at Arizona State University, he struggled to get himself out of his house and socialize. But by his fourth and final year, Wali had broken out of his shell and made countless friends, joined student organizations, and found many opportunities around campus.

Now, Wali is graduating as a Dean's Medalist from the School of Social Transformation with a degree in justice studies, a minor in civic and economic thought leadership, and a certificate in both African and African American studies and socio-legal studies.

Thanks to his life experiences and learning at ASU, Wali realized that he needed to work on his patience, both within himself and for others.

“Patience relates to my own beliefs and understanding of oppression and injustice. I learned that understanding the systems of oppression before us takes time, just like it did for me,” he explained.

This understanding of patience, learned through his justice studies lens, allowed Wali to continue to grow and teach himself discipline, selflessness and gratitude, even during times when he found himself struggling.

While Wali may have been less involved at the start of his college career, he made up for it during his senior year. He interned with CAIR Arizona and was described by one of his professors, Tracy Perkins, as an "absolutely delightful student who is sharp and has actively participated in a lot of community work.” 

“I could not be more thankful for my time at ASU, especially this last year that I’m still experiencing,” stated Wali. 

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

Answer: I realized that I wanted to involve myself with a major that allowed me to thrive in direct community work and directly ameliorate the lives of my people and those closest to the margin. Justice studies was a major that furthered my understanding of oppression, injustice and marginalization, and without this foundation I wouldn’t have been able to actively change that which needed to be changed.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because my two older brothers attended this school. Since they both serve as role models to me, I was able to witness both graduate and achieve great things within their future after ASU. Therefore, it was difficult for me to choose otherwise.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Tracy Perkins taught me resilience and compassion through a number of classes and projects I was able to involve myself in. Resilience in the work ... is often difficult to do but must be done. Compassion within my relations with others and always staying kind, as she always is. I thank her and countless other professors for helping me grow into the man I am now.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students?

A: The best piece of advice I can give to students is to trust and stay patient with yourself. There is absolutely nothing you cannot do, and I have had to hammer that affirmation into myself. Also, speak up in class! You never know when a professor is waiting to offer an opportunity simply because you are courageous.

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

A: I really enjoyed studying and working at the top of the student services building. There were a couple of secret little spots that had a really nice view and it ended up being my go-to this last semester.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Attending law school is not entirely out of the question, but I am working with an organization centered around liberation, and their work ties directly to what I am passionate about. I see myself working with this organization and potentially studying for the LSAT at the same time.

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