Olympic Medalist and Activist Speaks At Freshman Read Event

Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad (center) answered students questions during the Freshman Read event. Adjunct English Professor Lori Myers (left) and event organizer and English & Gender Studies Chair Ellen Dolgin (right) moderated the event.

Freshman English students were treated to a question and answer session with Ibtihaj Muhammad –entrepreneur, activist, author, and Olympic medalist – on October 17, 2019 in the Hennessy Center.  The students had all read Muhammad’s memoir, “PROUD:  My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream.”  Muhammad is the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in fencing and was the first American woman to compete in the Olympics in hijab.

Muhammad told the students that her journey was not easy because she faced bullying and battled depression.  During the Freshman Read event, Muhammad was asked how young people could help combat discrimination. “Don’t think that this is not my problem and I can’t do anything,” she answered.  “You have to know that you are part of the solution and you have to find ways to insert yourself into the conversation and make yourself part of that change that you seek “

Muhammad is a sports ambassador with the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative and works closely with organizations like Athletes for Impact and the Special Olympics.  She was named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential list in 2016, the year she was in the Olympics.  Mattel’s first hijabi Barbie, modeled in Muhammad’s likeness, became available for purchase in July 2018.  That same month, Muhammad released her memoir, which also has a young readers edition. In September 2019, her children’s picture book, “The Proudest Blue” was released.  She also has her own clothing company, Louella, which aims to bring modest, fashionable, and affordable clothing to the United States market. 

After fielding questions, Muhammad graciously signed copies of her memoir and posed for selfies with students.