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Climbing the leadership ladder

Presidential Scholar and Exercise Science major Mohammed Zaman in front of the Student Fitness Center and McCormick Hall.

Presidential Scholar and Exercise Science major Mohammed Zaman in front of McCormick Hall.

When Mohammed Zaman was a student at Normal Community High School, he was involved in a few clubs but didn’t hold any leadership roles. All of that changed for the senior Honors exercise science major before he even stepped foot on the Illinois State campus in the fall of 2016.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m starting a new chapter and I want to do something different,’” Zaman shares.

The summer before Zaman started his freshman year, he reached out to Campus Recreation to ask about starting a registered student organization (RSO) for table tennis.

“I wanted to see where it could go and I wanted to continue to play the sport I enjoyed,” says Zaman. “I started meeting with the staff and they loved the idea and really supported me from the beginning.”

The club has grown exponentially since Zaman’s freshman year and this spring they won four out of the six Campus Recreation sports club awards. The table tennis president didn’t stop there. He also joined the Pre-Health Society his freshman year and connected the group to a local cadaver lab where he worked. After coordinating a field trip to the lab, his peers suggested he run for vice president the following year. He became president of the RSO shortly after that.

As a well-rounded freshman with multiple interests, Zaman looked for a final organization where he could make a difference.

“The Muslim Student Association has been a unique experience,” shares Zaman. “When I joined as a freshman, the club was mainly graduate students with very few undergraduate students.”

Zaman was able to again utilize his connections to the local community and serve as a liaison between the Muslim Student Association and the mosque in Bloomington-Normal. Zaman quickly climbed the ranks and was elected president his sophomore year.

Last spring, the group partnered with University Housing to plan the first Muslim Cultural Dinner.

“I got to share facts about the faith, help them create the menu, and introduce the speaker. It was incredible,” Zaman says.

The pre-med Presidential Scholar certainly hit the ground running his freshman year and he hasn’t let off the gas since. Zaman was selected as a 2019–2020 Bone Scholar and the faculty and staff in the School of Kinesiology and Recreation were proud of his success.

Zaman in the Kinesiology and Recreation lab where he conducts research.

“They were all thrilled after it was announced, giving me high fives in the hall,” Zaman says. “They were just so happy for me and that was special.”

What words of wisdom does this successful student leader share with his younger brothers, who are both seniors at Normal Community?

Zaman’s other advice for students includes, “As soon as you come to ISU, know there is opportunity for growth in all aspects.  If you want to get involved or start something, the opportunity is there.”

Zaman’s final piece of advice is to not be afraid to approach professors.  “Have faith, hope, and courage- ask what you’re doing well academically and as a student, and how you can improve.”  It’s just another thing Zaman started doing his freshman year that he’s stuck with ever since.

So what’s the next rung Zaman plans to climb?  He’s currently applying to several medical schools and while it is a stressful, difficult process, Zaman is doing his best to maintain his patience in his pursuit to become a surgeon.  With his hard-fought and well-earned faith, hope, and courage, there’s no doubt Zaman will continue to find success and serve as a leader beyond Illinois State.

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