For Top 10 IUPUI student and Kelley finance major Assoumaou Mayaki receiving an education was always a foregone conclusion. Her father, Ibrahim, grew up in a poor neighborhood in Niger and always stressed the value of a college degree.
"It wasn’t even a question, are you going to college," said Asma, who is the only Kelley student in the Top 10 of the Top 100 this year. More than 1,000 students were nominated for IUPUI's Top 100, one of the campus's most prestigious recognitions. Nine Kelley School of Business Indianapolis students were named in the Top 100.
After high school in the Nigerian city of Niamey, Asma learned English and came to Indianapolis for college in 2007. Her father wanted her to study politics; her mother hoped she'd choose science. Asma was considering law school.
As she finished her first year at IUPUI, Asma's father died suddenly from pancreatic cancer.
"It was a wake-up call," said Asma, who was faced with the challenge of funding her own education. "I thought, if I'm going to be here and make it through, I've got to make it count."
The shy sophomore became a student mentor in IUPUI's international learning community and began doing campus tours over the summer.
"That was one of the boldest decisions I made since I came here—learning the English language and telling Americans how great IUPUI is," said Asma. "I knew myself better than I thought I did because I'd stand in front of 20 students and their parents. I thought, if I can do this, I can do anything."
Asma still hadn't chosen a major. She thought a business degree would offer self-reliance. Asma thought of her father and his upbringing.
"He saw women who were so dependent on a man, they lost sight of what they could do for themselves," she remembered. "I had the opportunity they never did and I wanted to do something to help them."
Asma applied to the Diversity Scholars Research Program (DSRP) for students pursuing a research-enriched education who will contribute to the diversity of IUPUI. She learned 63 percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line. Of the 14.7 million people in her home country, more than half are women, only 15 percent of whom can read or write.
Asma saw a chance to pay it forward.
"Of all the sacrifices by my parents to give me opportunities, I wanted to live up to those."
Asma's DSRP project funding was approved to investigate micro-finance for Nigerian women. During a research trip to Niger she interned with a non-governmental organization (NGO) to help women in secluded, rural areas finance their own start-up businesses. The women obtained funding for everything from small restaurants to raising chickens and selling fish.
"It's a small thing, but yet they appreciate it so much," Asma remembered fondly. "They say, 'Because of this my kids can get an education. Because of this my kids won’t go hungry.'"
"I feel guilty for the opportunities I've had that other girls haven't. I can help them reach that goal of independence."
After she graduates in May, Asma plans to apply for jobs at NGOs and return home to Niger. Eventually she wants to have her own non-profit that provides Nigerian women with role models and educational opportunities.
"I think he would be really, really proud," said Asma when asked what her father would think of her work. "I can see him saying, 'Keep going keep pushing. It’s not done yet.'"