Challey Spotlight: Ahmed Makaraan

The Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth is highlighting the impact of our faculty and students at NDSU and in the community. Our first student feature shines a spotlight on Ahmed Makaraan.

Challey Spotlight: Ahmed Makaraan

Senior, Emergency Management and International Studies

Ahmed Makaraan is a senior studying emergency management and international studies with a minor in community development at NDSU. Born in Somalia and raised in Kenya, Ahmed moved to Canada as a refugee before coming to Fargo. Ahmed will graduate in May 2021 with plans to apply for graduate school. In addition to his involvement with the Challey Institute, Ahmed has worked with the American Red Cross; Somali Community Development of North Dakota; North Dakota Department of Public Health; and Results, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies to end poverty. Ahmed was awarded the 2021 NDSU Department of Emergency Management Community Service Award in recognition of his continuous and extensive service to both on and off-campus communities. A married father of three, Ahmed hopes to work in international relations or global business.

Challey Institute activities: Challey Undergraduate Fellows program and scholarship recipient; “The Great Debate: Marxism vs. the Market” reading group; “A Conflict of Visions: Engaging Political Disagreement” reading group; “Pandemics and Liberty” colloquium; “Hillbilly Elegy” colloquium; Menard Family Distinguished Speaker Series; IDEAS Research Workshop

You’ve been involved with many programs at the Challey Institute. Do any stick out as having the biggest impact on you?

Yes, the Hillbilly Elegy book and listening to the presentation by the author of the book [J.D. Vance]. Although Vance is white and was born in a Midwest city in the United States, his experience and the issues that the book listed fascinated me. He came from a low-income family; he had to struggle by himself to reach where he is today; he emphasizes the importance of the family and the importance of the motivation and determination to work. And although we are two different people – like I come from Africa – his story resonated with me. I’m like wow, because I never thought that my story and my experience and who I am would be very close to the experiences of a white man who grew up here. And that story and this event inspired me and stuck with me, and I was very glad to participate in the discussion to talk with other students about the book.

What lessons have you learned from the programs you’ve participated in?

There are a lot of different programs that are very eye-opening, like the Scholars reading group, the IDEAS Workshop, and the pandemic colloquium. I want to say something about the IDEAS Workshop, which brings different experts from the United States to present their research to students on diverse subjects. By engaging with those researchers, you learn a lot and your life is changed a lot. You are engaging with the recent research, which is very important for a student to develop and enhance their ideas and knowledge. You can translate this experience and put these ideas into practice in the workplace.

Another one of the premium programs that I loved is the reading group. The one I am in now is talking about the different ideologies that the United States was built on, and before I was in the group that looked at the different economic systems such as socialism and capitalism. Being part of these readings and this experience, as an immigrant, it helps me to understand these things. I like being able to discuss these topics and hear from other students and share my experiences. It teaches us to reach and reconcile with people who have different ideologies, which is always very important to me. I’m gaining a lot of experience and skills from this that will help me in my career.

How have the scholarships you’ve received from philanthropic support helped you?

The scholarship helped me to enhance and focus my education, and at the same time develop my professional connections. I received scholarships during the extraordinary times of COVID-19, which helped me a lot. I was able to engage with the material and the speakers and instructors because of the financial support.

The Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth aims to advance understanding in the areas of innovation, trade and institutions to identify policies and solutions that enhance economic growth and opportunity. Learn more at
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