When listing priorities, many college students would talk about earning good grades, finding a job to pay the bills, doing laundry and maintaining a social life. But at Grand Valley State University, senior Petra Alsoofy would tell you that saving the world is high on her to-do list.
Alsoofy moved to the United States from the Republic of Yemen, a country located on the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia, in 1998. She grew up in Coldwater, Mich. and started attending GVSU in the fall of 2006.
When Alsoofy started at GVSU, she wanted to be a math teacher, but after teaching for a year at a local mosque, she decided teaching was not for her.
“I just didn’t feel that I had what it takes to do this for the rest of my life,” she said. “I figured, why not study something I am actually interested in?”
Alsoofy decided on political science and history, both with an emphasis in Middle Eastern studies.
“After taking a couple history classes, I realized that you can do history and you can do political science, but to get a complete picture of what’s going on in this world, you need both,” she said. “They just complement each other so beautifully, and you never get bored studying the Middle East.”
Louis Moore, a history professor at GVSU, has had Alsoofy in three classes.
“Petra is a great student,” Moore said. “She is hard-working, and she takes service to a whole new level.”
Alsoofy said some of her most passionate areas are women’s rights and women’s status in the world.
“Basically anything that relates to women, whether it is in the U.S. or developing countries, the status of women is not where it is supposed to be,” she said. “There is still a lot of discrimination and sexism, and this is something that I see myself working with.”
Along with women’s rights, Alsoofy is also interested in peace building. Whether it is in conflict countries or local communities, Alsoofy believes that building peace is crucial.
Alsoofy is a member of several student organizations and is on the student advisory board.
Off campus, Alsoofy is vice president of the Peter Cook Leadership Academy with the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. She has been with the center for several years and was just elected as an officer last year.
This past fall, the Hauenstein Center hired Alsoofy as an intern to design the program “Leadership U,” a university-wide program that aims to put all of the leadership opportunities offered by GVSU under one umbrella. It allows any student to go through the program and design his or her own leadership philosophy. They hope to release the official program in the fall.
This semester, Alsoofy is working with Inter-Faith, a national initiative that encourages inter-faith dialogue and work among college students. Alsoofy is also working with Model Arab League, which is similar to Model United Nations, an academic simulation of the United Nations intended to educate participating students about diplomacy and current events. Alsoofy will have participated in seven models this year.
Alsoofy’s considerable involvement and hard work will come to fruition when she graduates this May.
“I can definitely see her working out conflicts in different nations,” said Moore. “She is very knowledgeable and she will definitely have success.”