When it comes to leadership, Nadeen Ibrahim’s advice is simple: find your passion.
The University of Colorado Denver senior was named the 2017 Student Leader of the Year by the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation and the Boettcher Foundation at the Colorado Leadership Alliance (CLA) summit in January. With her involvement in the Denver Immigrant and Refugee Commission, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment State Board of Health and as the youngest member appointed to the Board of Health by Gov. John Hickenlooper, Ibrahim has channeled passion directly to her community.
We sat down with Ibrahim to learn about her dedication to community leadership and what inspires her.
TCB: What do you think is the critical ingredient when a group of diverse leaders comes together?
NI: I think that when we have an overarching mission and when we all come together that we all agree on a vision. When we take a look at the big picture, it allows to figure out how different types of leaders are going to contribute to that given their expertise and skill sets. Having a dynamic leadership force proves to be more successful than one person trying to take on a big task.
TCB: What community issues drive you as a leader and what has influenced your leadership style?
NI: Participating in the community engagement department at the University of Colorado Denver, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of trainings around community development, social justice and being able to engage in the community. When it comes to community outreach, it’s not what I want to change within communities—it’s what communities want to change within themselves and what skill set can I contribute to that to help them get to that spot.
TCB: What challenges have you experienced as a leader that have shifted your perspective?
NI: Being a millennial and a young individual, I think our sense of leadership capacity and ability is not really what I would like it to be. When people take a look at some of the leadership skills or abilities that I have it’s a surprise for them. It’s a matter of breaking down barriers and the idea that leaders aren’t necessarily people of older age or of higher education degrees; leaders can be anybody. You lead from where you stand.
TCB: You have a strong focus on global issues. Why do you think it’s important for young leaders to focus on broad issues impacting our global community?
NI: When I think about global issues, they do have an impact on us and we have role to play within them just given the connectedness of the world. I think it’s important to understand what that type of connectedness looks like and how can we leverage our skills and experiences on a global basis.
TCB: Where do you see yourself professionally and in your community investment in the future?
NI: In five years, I see myself either completing a doctor of medicine or a law degree. I see myself also completing a master of public policy. I think policy really is a sustainable way of change; it ensures that there is a level of investment in certain issues. When I think about sustainable change, I see that by being a policy maker or a policy analyst. And I want to complement that with a doctor of medicine or a law degree because I would be able to take those human experiences and those human interactions to continue to drive my level of efforts and analysis around policy implementation.
TCB: What would you say to our future leaders, to encourage them to be leaders?
NI: Take the initiative – I grew up in a community of less than a thousand people and now I have the opportunity to be a part of a larger community and hold a leadership position. I use my differences to drive me forward rather than hinder my potential. Let your passion drive you where you want to go and help it cultivate the confidence to take that initiative.
Laura James is the marketing and communications coordinator for the Denver Metro Chamber.