Business & Society

Aggie Profile: Former Student Body President Sami Ahmed Discusses Mentors, 'Daring Mighty Things'

By Tim Olsen |

Editor’s Note: As part of a series commemorating cultural heritages, Utah State Today is publishing interviews with a variety of Aggie alumni, faculty, staff, and students. This interview with Sami Ahmed, a consultant, former USU student body president, and graduate of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, is in observation of February as Black History Month.

Sami Ahmed, originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, began a new chapter at age 11 when he moved to Salt Lake City. Graduating from West High, he pursued finance at Utah State University's Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. Sami cultivated his leadership skills while serving as USU’s student body president from 2019-21. Now in management consulting, specializing in health care, he blends cultural insight with academic rigor. Outside of work, Sami enjoys sports, delving into history and spending quality time with his family.

UST: Tell us about your leadership journey and where you are today in your field.

SA: The first leadership role I held was at USU in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. Prior to that I held no remarkable leadership roles. However, that small leadership role propelled me into a greater leadership journey. When I was at Huntsman, the leadership position I held showed me the impact I could have as a leader to make significant changes in my environment and USU.

After Huntsman, I was lucky enough to be elected student body president at USU, which completely opened a new avenue that dramatically change my life. The trajectory of my life changed and I was able to connect with students and faculty at a greater level. Today, I am still navigating my early career in consulting, which I was able to obtain due to my student body president role.

UST: What did you study at USU and how did your time as an Aggie prepare you for what you do now?

SA: I studied finance at USU. I don't directly use my degree on a day-to-day level. However, there are critical lessons I learned that I use in my work. Things I learned as a freshman in psychology, history, accounting, economics and more are surprisingly useful in the consulting field.

The most important thing being an Aggie taught me is how to be ambitious and follow a path. The [Huntsman School of Business] motto "Dare Mighty Things" has been an important source of preparation. In consulting you have to be an expert quickly on topics you just got introduced to. Therefore, you need the ability to believe in yourself and accept the challenge, which takes a bit of "daring mighty things" in order to do.

UST: Who were your biggest mentors at USU and how did they impact your life and career path?

SA: Chris Fawson, economics professor: Gave me my first ever scholarship and truly made me feel like a smart person.

Paul Fjeldsted finance professor: Showed me that a USU degree can take you anywhere, and to be ambitious.

James Morales VP of students: He taught me how to be a leader in all circumstances.

Linda Zimmerman, director of students: She showed me how to put others above oneself and diligently work to ensure the happiness of others. No one cares about people more than Linda.

There are so many others I can mention. The best part of USU is there are mentors everywhere if you are willing to find them.

UST: How has your experience as an African American leader shaped your journey?

SA: I never really considered my race as a leader. It never really came up. Maybe I was naive enough to not notice but I don't remember my skin color every getting in the way at USU. As a leader, I was aware that I was one of two or three student body presidents of color but beyond that I don't think it was ever an issue.

As a leader, I tried to make sure everyone was treated fairly and no one felt USU was not the place for them. Of course, I realize other African American leaders at USU might have had a different experience than me. However, for me, I don't think my race ever became a hinderance. Hopefully I was an example to those who look like me that at USU you can reach the highest leadership no matter your racial background.

UST: What advice would you give to the next generation of aspiring Aggie leaders and/or students who are just starting out?

SA: Find mentors and open your mouth. What I mean by that is that mentors make the biggest difference in your academic and social success. I am thankful to this day that I went and talked to my professors and school leaders as a young student. They opened doors for me that I never knew existed.

My second point is talk to everyone and get to know people. The network you build and the social circles you hangout in will largely determine the success of your future. The friends I had at USU were ambitious, and getting to know them made a huge difference in my career and personal life.

WRITER

Tim Olsen
Managing Editor
Utah State Magazine
435-797-1769
timothy.olsen@usu.edu

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