It took a pandemic to curb Shugla Kakar, the pre-med student body president who was always on the go with classes, meetings and activities. As she told UW Bothell Magazine, the coronavirus restrictions forced her to accomplish all that work from home as a senior last spring, but a lot of people faced the same struggles, she said.
“I just remind myself of the blessing I do have,” she said, referring to her family.
Teleconferencing from her room is not how Kakar wanted to end her final quarter at UW Bothell. She had been looking forward to Commencement. Her part in the June 13 virtual ceremony was a short video, saying she’ll see the Class of 2020 at the combined Commencement in 2021.
That’s when she plans to deliver her last speech as 2019-20 student body president.
“I want to keep the momentum and the whole package alive for the in-person Commencement, because that means so much to me,” she said.
Momentum is a good word for Kakar, who was a force on campus. She graduated in Health Studies. She was recipient of a 2020 University of Washington Bothell Chancellor’s Medal, which is presented to students whose commitment to learning and overcoming obstacles are a source of inspiration. She also was recognized as one of the Husky 100, students from across all three UW campuses honored for making the most of their UW education.
Kakar sees these awards as confirmation of her aspirations.
“UW Bothell and UW as a whole were really able to help me find my voice and become this person that I am today — a really confident, outspoken woman who inspires other women and other marginalized people,” she said.
Daughter of Afghanistan
Kakar is one of five daughters and five sons in a family that moved to the United States from Afghanistan to escape war and violence and to seek educational opportunities. Her father, Hekmatullah Surgul Kakar, is a strong supporter of girls’ education, she said. “He wanted us to have our own life and be independent.”
Arriving in America at the age of 14, Shugla Kakar learned English by watching television. She also speaks Pashto, Farsi, Urdu, and she’s working on Arabic.
Shortly after Kakar arrived at UW Bothell, she became involved in student government. Because a Reflection Room in Commons Hall (UW2) was too small for Muslim students waiting to pray, she connected with Aretha Basu, director of student advocacy for the Associated Students of the University of Washington Bothell. Working with the ASUWB, the University opened a larger Reflection Room in Founders Hall (UW1) with separate rooms for men and women.
Kakar led the Muslim Student Association and was an ASUWB student senator, vice president and then president. She attended UW Board of Regents meetings and represented all three campuses on its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
Kakar had a role in bringing about the UW Bothell Student Diversity Center, the Health and Wellness Resource Center and the new academic “degree maps” for students. She also contributed to the UW Bothell strategic plan.
“I would ground myself in my values and just remember: I’m not doing this to receive credit,” she said. “I’m not doing this just to receive praise. I’m doing these projects because I want to help people.”
Kakar thanks her mentors for showing her what her full potential can be — “the fact that I do belong in these spaces.”
Foremost among them, Kakar said, was Kelly Snyder, former assistant vice chancellor for campus and community development, who left the University early this year. Both Snyder and Emily Christian, academic services director in the Division of Student Affairs, are powerful women with a real presence, Kakar said. “Being in the space with them made me feel so confident.”
Kakar also said Julie Shayne, principal lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences and faculty coordinator for the Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies major, changed her life. Other influential mentors were Sam Al-Khoury, director of Student Engagement & Activities and ASUWB adviser, and Miguel Macias, director of the Student Diversity Center.
After a gap year, Kakar is planning to apply to medical school, driving toward a goal of becoming a doctor. She strives to honor her family and serve her homeland, where she recalls most girls were discouraged from going to school.
“I want to go back to Afghanistan to make sure their health care system comes to the same level that other countries have,” she said. “I feel privileged I got to come to America and get this amazing education.
“If we who are privileged don’t go and help the rest of humanity, I don’t know who will do it.”
Each year, the University of Washington selects 100 students who are making the most of their Husky experience. Thirteen UW Bothell students were recognized as part of the Husky 100 Class of 2020. What’s special about Husky 100 recipients? They dare to do. They use what they learn inside and outside the classroom to grow personally and to create change in their communities.
Kakar is a fast talker, as she demonstrated in a hand-washing video for the University.