NDSU graduate Ilhan Omar is the Minnesota House Representative for District 60B. She made history in November 2016 when she was elected the nation’s first Somali-American legislator.
Hometown: Mogadishu, Somalia
Lives in: Minneapolis
Major: Political science and international studies, 2011
Why did you chose your major?
Those are two areas that are of interest to me, given my background and upbringing. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to be engaged in my local political processes and be an informed global citizen.
How did NDSU prepare you?
NDSU provided an open and tolerant learning environment in which I was able to form my own independent and informed opinions with the help of a great faculty, student body and curriculum.
What led to your current position?
I fell in love with politics at the age of 14. I acted as my grandfather’s interpreter so he could participate in our local Democratic-Farmer-Labor caucus, in the district I now represent. Watching neighbors come together to advocate for change at the grassroots level inspired me to get involved in the democratic process. I came to the realization that I actually wanted to run for the House of Representatives in 2015. There wasn’t really one day or one thing that led to me deciding to run for office. It seems like my work with Women Organizing Women, my activism in the community and my progressive values kept pushing me toward this decision.
What is your biggest takeaway from your campaign experience?
There isn’t anything you can’t accomplish if you are willing to work with and surround yourself with a dedicated and hardworking team. You can’t always do everything by yourself and don’t ever take anything for granted.
What goals do you hope to accomplish while serving?
I hope to inspire future generations, especially communities of color that are often marginalized, to continue to be involved in the process and take on leadership roles. I also hope to increase transparency and accessibility in government.
Do you have any advice for current students?
Whatever you decide to pursue, be bold and don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you can do whatever you put your mind to. Don’t be afraid of failure. Failure often precedes success because you need to make mistakes in order to learn. Success is great and something to strive for, but it doesn’t often teach you something. Learning is one of life’s greatest gifts.