Cultural Influence on College Women

[by Amanda Ables, re-posted from the Spring 2019 STLR Newsletter]

Meet Sundas Shahid, a senior here at the University of Central Oklahoma, graduating May 2019 with a degree in Photographic Art and Strategic Communications. Sundas is very active here on campus as she is a part of LeaderShape, Student Programming Board, and has been an Orientation Leader for the freshmen orientation program. Sundas has been working as a STLR Student Communications Assistant for 2 years and is the Treasurer for the STLR Student Ambassadors group.

Sundas’ STLR-Funded Project Influences of culture on college women and the effect it has on their identity and leadership development takes a look into 5 women who are UCO students of different cultural backgrounds. Interviews are conducted with each woman to get to know their cultural upbringing and them as individuals.

Sundas was inspired to conduct this project through her own experiences with struggling to identify herself and with her own leadership roles here on campus. With being a Muslim woman and pursuing a major in a creative field, she states how she struggles with balancing her identity development while valuing her culture. So, when it came down to choosing a research topic she knew she wanted to focus on women from different cultures and how they balance advocating for themselves and staying true to their cultures. She hopes that with this project she can help empower women and also help educate the public on different cultures.

Sundas expressed that her biggest goal to achieve through this project is to open the community’s perspective on women from different cultures.

“Women have to balance so much. Every culture portrays their women to be a certain way. Whether that is how they dress, the way they should conduct themselves and even the roles that they play in life. My goal is to shine light on how women, specifically college women, are overcoming their barriers and flourishing in their identity while also staying true to the values of their culture.”

The Interviews are conducted more as conversations to make the participates more comfortable with opening up, which Sundas has expressed as her favorite part of the project so far.

“I have been able to have various open-minded conversations with the participants about their cultures while also getting to know them on a deeper level. This has been a learning opportunity not just for me but also the participants who are part of this, and I love that aspect of this project!”

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