Student of the Year 2019: Nourel-Hoda Eidy
Public Health junior Nourel-Hoda Eidy has left her mark at the University of Michigan, that’s for sure. She is the founder of multiple programs for Arab students on campus, a founding sister of the first Arab sorority at the University, co-director of PILOT and a program assistant for the Community Action and Social Change minor. Eidy is a voice of change in her community, as well as for other communities of color. She said one of her driving forces to advocate for change on campus was the older students who paved the path for social change.
“I wanted to pave the way for new students,” Eidy said. “I identified gaps in what my community needed, and I started to address these.”
Eidy noticed a lack in support system for Arab women who attended the University. This drove her to become a founding sister of Epsilon Alpha Sigma, the first Arab sorority at the University. As Eidy pointed out, “UM has a unique location in that it is the biggest university next to the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the U.S.” And the number of Arab women that attend the University is steadily increasing each year. She believes these “women need a support system and platform to share their identity and tear down the stereotypes that all Arabs are the same.” She hopes the sorority will help to address some of these issues.
In addition to EAS, Eidy has also co-founded other important initiatives for the Arab community during her time at the University. These include Successful Arab Leaders at Michigan, the first orientation program for new Arab students, and Arab Leadership Network, a leadership program for incoming Arab students. Both organizations she co-founded with Public Policy junior Arwa Gayar, current co-president of the Arab Student Association.
The common theme that underlies all of her work is the importance of empowerment and resource access and equality. Eidy said she hopes to “make the University feel like a home to my community, as well as showing students how to navigate post-secondary education and grow professionally and academically.”
The first organization Eidy joined at the University was PILOT, which empowers students from marginalized communities to become leaders on campus. Soon after joining, she became co-director.
“It provided me with a family and a diverse space, I learned about different communities and their struggles,” Eidy said. “It was challenging to learn how to run programs and events but linked it back to my community and the next generation. PILOT provided me with a network to grow on campus.”
As an active student leader on campus, I asked Eidy about the importance of networking. She said, “Networking is important to my development,” and also explained that there are different types of networking.
“You can have different networks, like social networks, coalition building with other communities (in Eidy’s experience) like La Casa.”
La Casa is a Latinx student organization on campus that provides a space for Latinx students to celebrate their culture and foster a community. Eidy said coalition building is very significant and “so many student leaders come out of it. We were able to grow together and know about each community’s struggles and advocate for that, too.”
Eidy’s advice to undergraduate students interested in becoming advocates for social change is a quote she likes to use: “If not now, when? If not me, who?”
“Don’t wait for someone else to make the change you want to see,” Eidy said. “You can advocate for your community, no one knows the needs like you do.”
A key component of Eidy’s advocacy seems to be uniting different communities on campus. One example she cites is her sorority.
“Creating EAS, which focused on Arab culture, allowed Arab representation in Greek life,” Eidy said. “We were put in spaces with Greek organizations that are Latinx-based and South Asian-based, which created a community. When we don’t intentionally create spaces for conversation, allyship is not going to happen.”
As a Public Health student, Eidy hopes to use all of the skills she has learned from her “community work, which are transferable skills to public health.” Eidy said public health allows her to achieve social change.
“Everything can be considered public health,” Eidy said. “Access to education, to resources, in the long run affect your health … A lot of health outcomes are as a result of systematic disadvantages.”
In her public health career, Eidy is interested in looking at “access for refugee immigrants and how that affects their health outcomes.”