Helping students feel welcome on campus

Four students standing in a line, holding up Iowa State University student recruiting material
Fatima Najar, second from left, senior in forestry, volunteered as an Admissions Outreach Ambassador at Iowa State, making sure visiting students and their families felt welcome on campus.

By Whitney Baxter

Campus visits are an important part of the college selection process. Fatima Najar has been making sure underrepresented students and their families feel welcomed and included when they arrive at Iowa State University.

Najar, a senior in forestry from Sioux City, Iowa, was selected as this semester’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion Award recipient. The award recognizes Najar’s efforts to foster an environment that encourages diversity within CALS and Iowa State.

Fatima Najar standing in her graduation cap and gown, with trees in the background.
Fatima Najar

As a transfer student seeking to finish her bachelor’s degree, Najar became involved in several organizations on campus. She joined the FOCUS (Fostering Opportunity and Collaboration through Unity and Scholarship) Learning Community in CALS, as well as UNIDAS, an engagement group for Latinx womxn.

Najar also volunteered as an Admissions Outreach Ambassador, meeting with underrepresented prospective students to share what it is like to be a student at Iowa State. Her Spanish fluency allowed her to converse with families in a language they better understood.

“It is much easier for me to share my story in Spanish,” Najar said. “I wanted to be more than just a tour guide for these prospective students and their families. I wanted to help them learn about Iowa State and all the resources available to them.”

The CALS Student Services office staff have played a large role in Najar’s success at Iowa State. Elizabeth Martinez-Podolsky, former director of CALS multicultural success, helped Najar find her way during her first semester in Ames. Esperanza Moothart, emergency support coordinator, was a FOCUS Learning Community mentor for Najar and has provided a listening ear when needed.

“I knew whatever I was expressing would be listened to, and she would come up with a plan to help me,” Najar said of Moothart.

Reflecting on her time at Iowa State, Najar said she has grown through her various leadership roles.

“I’ve realized the attributes I bring as a leader. I’m no longer afraid to express myself and be unapologetically me,” she said.

Following graduation, Najar plans to spend time with her dad in Mexico, implementing things she has learned at Iowa State on his land. Capping off her time in Ames by receiving the Commitment to Diversity Award is a huge honor for her and “a big win for any student of color.”

“I feel very humbled about the work I’ve done to give students a safe space at Iowa State. It truly didn’t feel like work,” Najar said.