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The families we create when far from home: Iman Dikko

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Iman Dikko, a Nigerian student with a major in supply chain management and a certificate in international business, took full advantage of opportunities to get involved on campus, including an immersion trip with SomethingNew.org, an OMA internship, student organizations and Student Senate.

For graduating University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire international student Iman Dikko of Abuja, Nigeria, experiencing the COVID-19 global health crisis while apart from loved ones near and far has brought a new appreciation for connections that she thinks will be a blessing in the long run for all of us.

"Without being able to connect with people physically, we are all learning to be creative," Dikko says. "I believe that a long-term benefit of this experience will be that we will no longer take for granted our time spent with loved ones — something as simple as going out for lunch with a friend is a valuable way to connect and should be cherished."

Dikko knows a lot about missing people, as she has spent the last four years half a world away from her family in Nigeria. As she plans to graduate with a business degree in operations and supply chain management, Dikko will dedicate her graduation to her parents for all their love, hard work and support of her dream to study in the U.S. At the same time, she acknowledges a network of support she found here in Eau Claire, without which she fears she may have floundered.

"On a personal level my main support has come from my circle of friends and my host parents. My friends and I have been through a lot together and my hosts Donna and Ed welcomed me in as a part of their family," Dikko says. "Without all of their support it would have been much harder for me to feel comfortable in this community, so I thank them and am truly grateful."

In addition to the carefully designed net of resources and support that international Blugolds find in the Center for International Education, Dikko found a strong connection in the people and support in both the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and the African Student Association. 

Dikko worked as an intern in the OMA office, under the leadership of director Dang Yang. Dikko said Yang was the first person to really trust her professionally and put faith in her to do work that she didn't know she would be capable of doing. 

"As a campus leader and as a student intern in OMA, Iman demonstrated time and again that she is a courageous advocate who listens, responds and takes action," Yang says. "Iman has enriched our campus through her engagement, leadership and advocacy. To that, we owe her a debt of gratitude. We are better because of her contributions to our office and to our campus and we congratulate her on her graduation." 

Dikko said that Michael Thomas, student services coordinator in OMA and advisor to the Black Student Alliance, was the one person who had the greatest positive impact on her success at UW-Eau Claire.

"He was my supervisor when I worked in OMA and was always there for me when I needed help or any kind of guidance," she says.

Thomas is proud of the feeling of family that students like Dikko find in the OMA community and will miss such a hard-working member of the student team. 

“As an advisor, I have been able to witness Iman encourage her peers, faculty, staff and the UWEC community to demonstrate, receive and participate in various displays of African and Black culture," Thomas says. "Her efforts have consistently informed and advanced our EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) efforts."

In terms of concrete advancement of campus EDI work, Dikko also served as director of the Equity in Student Matters Commission of the Student Senate, a key stakeholder in the creation of new EDI training for all incoming Blugold students. Instituted on July 1, these interactive modules are delivered through the EVERFI online education platform, joining the previously required training in alcohol abuse prevention and sexual harassment and assault prevention.

"I am so pleased that our campus made the important decision to provide this training to all new students," Dikko said last June. "An increased awareness will help to improve our campus climate. Being a member of the committee that created this training has allowed me to leave an important legacy for our future."

Dikko will be seeking full-time employment in supply chain management in the U.S. but realizes that COVID-19 may require flexible thinking in the short term. 

"As fewer organizations are hiring right now and the pandemic makes it harder to have that strong first impression of an in-person interview, I remain hopeful that I will find a job soon," she says. "If I don't, I will go back home to Nigeria and spend important time with my family for a bit while I apply for graduate school."

If she returns to Nigeria and is able to spend that time with her family, she will take with her the Blugold pride as an alumna, knowing she made her mark on the people and programs of this campus, and she also will take with her the gratitude and support of her "second family" here. 

As Thomas affectionately put it, "Iman, your OMA family will be sad to see you leave but we have a sense of comfort knowing that you are moving forward with full power, full action and full grace in the direction of your purpose."