The pursuit of a dream

“If anyone deserves the honor of being named a member of this year’s Husky 100, I truly believe it is Ana Radzi.”

These words were shared by Tim Wilson, dean of Student Affairs at the University of Washington Bothell, about a student who has gone above and beyond in service to her many communities. She is a campus leader, a student teacher at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School and an advocate for the Seattle Housing Authority. And above all else, she is a mother.

“Ana stands out because of the way she commits herself to others,” said Dr. Allison Hintz, associate professor in the School of Educational Studies. “She lifts others up and is a phenomenal representation of the University’s mission and values.”

Each year, the Husky 100 recognizes 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students from the Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma campuses who are making the most of their time at the University. The recipients — like Radzi — all actively connect what happens inside and outside of the classroom and apply what they learn to make a difference on and off campus.

Using many life lessons

Growing up as a Muslim, female and person of color, Radzi says she never felt seen as a whole person in the classroom. “I grew up in schools where my religion and identity were, and still are, misrepresented,” she said. “I received negative presumptions from people and was called derogatory names such as ‘terrorist,’ even in the classroom where I was supposed to be safe.”

It was these experiences that drove her to reimagine what education could and should look like for young people. “I want to create a space where diversity is an asset,” she said.

A spring 2021 graduate in Elementary Education, Radzi spent time while at UW Bothell working as a student teacher with first graders at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Seattle. She made it a point to bring her students’ backgrounds and cultures in the classroom. “I made sure they knew that it’s their different perspectives and ideas that make the world amazing,” she said.

Radzi also draws on her life experiences to imagine more than just better teaching for people in marginalized communities. “I cannot wait to watch Ana lead educational change,” Hintz said. “She stands for everyone and everything UW strives to be in our region and in our world.”

Leveraging her empathy

A non-traditional student at UW Bothell, Radzi did not immediately attend college in the United States after graduating high school. Instead, she traveled to Saudi Arabia to study Arabic at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University. She spent six years in the program with students from all over the world and says it has greatly informed her approach to teaching.

“Having lived and studied as a non-native speaker, I came across presumptions of being uneducated, and I struggled to communicate basic needs like asking for directions,” Radzi said. “I now am able to empathize what emergent bilinguals undergo and can use that experience to make me a more effective educator.”

While studying abroad, she was also challenged to rethink aspects of her culture. “My friends in the program talked to me about concepts such as poverty and ageism and the way many Americans use the narrative associated with them to belittle others,” she said. “Through these interactions with people of different cultures and values, I gained a new perspective on life and became more open-minded.”

Despite all she gained in Saudi Arabia, Radzi says her return to the U.S. led to a feeling of emptiness. “I realized that I still had a lot to learn about teaching,” she said, “and I decided to fill this void by pursuing my studies in elementary education at UW Bothell.”

Speaking for the voiceless

Unlike the classrooms Radzi had been in as a child, she said her professors at UW Bothell made sure people of different races, culture, religions, gender identities and sexuality were represented in course materials. Her professor Dr. Hintz, for example, honors mathematicians such as Dudley Weldon Woodard who was the second African American to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics and established the mathematics graduate program at Howard University.

Radzi said this made her feel both seen and valued. “I realized that there are people who look like me, who have been able to reach their goals and who make a positive impact in life.”

In part because she felt empowered as a student at UW Bothell, Radzi quickly stepped into the role of community advocate through her involvement with the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for Students, a group charged with advising UW Bothell Chancellor Wolf Yeigh on a variety of issues impacting the student body. Dean Wilson met Radzi through her service on the committee and said her curiosity, thoughtfulness and commitment to justice made her one of the group’s more exceptional leaders.

“Her opinion carried significant influence among her committee peers,” he said. “Ana’s insights on issues such as how the institution should proceed with commencement in the midst of a pandemic and her thoughts on aspects of a new residence hall opening in spring 2023 represent just two of the impactful issues she has weighed in on.”

Radzi also served on the Professional Education Advisory Board for the School of Educational Studies — and again made real impact. “Ana brings her perspective and life experiences into these spaces to inform and help shape a wide range of issues including policies and decisions such as new housing on campus and diversity training for community-based education partners in our region,” Hintz said.

When I get to be inside some of these spaces with Ana, I am inspired by the way she navigates different settings with a consistent concern for more equitable education.”

Being a symbol of strength

When the pandemic hit, Radzi and her family of six were greatly affected. “We were limited by technology, internet, food and other basic needs,” Radzi said. “I reached out to neighbors and families within the Seattle area through online forums, and it saddened me to find that the injustices were communal.”

Rather than surrendering to the hardship, Radzi rose to leadership. “I became determined to advocate my concerns for my family and the society, so I represented Seattle Housing Authority and its low-income residents in a meeting with the superintendent and board members of Seattle Public Schools to discuss the injustices we were facing,” she said. “I pressed on issues that have been prominent within education and other contexts related to our well-being.”

Radzi now hopes to use her background, life experiences and education to become an asset to the world. “I see myself in the years to come advocating for underrepresented voices and taking lead of workshops and trainings to help educators provide impactful experiences,” she said. “I hope to be able to incorporate my insights into equity and equality in the curriculum and my teaching methods for all students.

“And I want to offer encouragement to any parents reading this,” she added. “I want to let you know that if you want an education — you can do it. There is such a big support system at UW Bothell, and the community is there for you to help you succeed.”

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