Over the past two years, Mount Ida Fashion Design Sophomore, Sahro Hassan, has founded a company, won a statewide contest for funding her startup, become a leader for change and dialogue, and captured the attention of The Boston Globe, PRI, Cirka Magazine, and Aramco World.  She’s done this all through designing clothes for Muslim women that non-Muslims can embrace.

Born in a refugee camp in Kenya to Somali parents, when Hassan moved to the Indianapolis at age 10 she was unable to speak any English. She ultimately moved to Lewiston, ME before starting at Mount Ida in fall 2014.

When Hassan started elementary school in Indianapolis she was not allowed to wear her hijab and struggled to learn English. She then moved to Lewiston, ME where she found support in the flourishing, local Somali community.



As her confidence and language skills grew, there was still one thing bothering her: the lack of clothing options for Muslim women that were modest, but also fashionable. Inspired by her belief that “modest doesn’t have to be boring,” she began designing bright, fun, modest clothing for Muslim and non-Muslim women alike to wear and enjoy. Hassan’s middle school teacher Barbara Benjamin-McManus remembers the beginning of her fashion career “She knew what her dream was and would not be deterred,” she says.

That determination paid off when she entered the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Competition and won, securing $1,100 in funding for her fashion company Fashionuji.

Her success has continued at Mount Ida. Last year three of her pieces were featured in the Mount Ida College Fashion Show Fashion Futures 2015. Now a sophomore and a resident advisor, Hassan is continuing to use her voice, as well as her designs, to foster dialogue and encourage women to work together and to look beyond clothing to see each other for who they are, rather than what they are wearing.

Convocation – September 3, 2015

To the parents, families and friends who are here today. To the Trustees of the College who honor us by being present today. To the members of the Faculty upon whom the future of these students depends, to our Administrators and staff who guide the work of the College every day.

And most importantly to our new students – we welcome you to this beautiful campus and everything that Mount Ida has to offer to you.  This day is about you and the beginning your College life with us.

So I am going to ask you to do something for me.  How many of you have your cell phone with you?
Ok-stand up take them out and take a photo of yourself – take a selfie – yes, go ahead it’s ok.  Help others who don’t have phones take a group selfie.

Ok – now listen to me for a few minutes.  The word “selfie” was accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary in November 2013 as “self-portrait taken with a digital camera to share on a social network like Instagram or Snap Chat”.  They are easy to create, easy to share, easy to control – not quite like the rest of our lives.  It is a momentary picture of yourself.

But the word “self” has a much longer and deeper history, a deeper meaning, more important to the journey you are about to begin at Mount Ida.  One of the best ancient definitions of self comes from the Greek “egkrates” or “egkrateia”, [eng-krat-i-ah] which means “true mastery from within, “patience” and “endurance.”

While the selfie is momentary egkrateia [eng-krat-i-ah] “true self” refers to individuality, character – one’s better self.

Mount Ida is a place that takes you on a journey, not for the moment, but for your future, to build the character and promise that is inside each of you.  Mount Ida has helped students this way since its founding 116years ago.  This is a school catalogue from 1915.  I think the most important sentence in the catalogue for us today is this one.  “Individualism is the fundamental principle upon which this school is conducted. This school endeavors to make it possible for any student to do in their educational work just what they desire to accomplish.”

We will help you build a different, more permanent selfie than the photo you just took, but we need your help.

I ask each of you to take the time, beginning today and every day that you are here to meet someone new, take a course that you would never expect to, have lunch with a professor, come talk to me, travel abroad, help out at a high school, a native American reservation, join us for a play in Boston, be in a play on campus.

Why, because this is the place of dreams.  Here is where you shape your future and your future self and because here is where you become complete individually, where you become your own self, your better self.

We will be there with you every step of the way, all of us faculty, staff, coaches, administrators, but we need your help.  Get out of your rooms every day and have that goal.

We will give you those opportunities – you need to meet the challenge. We know you can – but you need to use your time wisely:

  • Be open to meet new people
  • Be open to different ideas
  • Our task is not to protect students from words and ideas that they will inevitably encounter, colleges should do all they can to equip students to thrive in a world full of words and ideas that they cannot control.”

Our principles regarding the free expression of ideas remain as expressed by Thomas Jefferson two centuries ago upon the founding of the University of Virginia.

“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human

Mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate

Any error so long as reason it left free to combat it.”

We believe that these words express the responsibility of American colleges and universities.  Open and free discussion, free from threat or harm.

What is new, challenging and, untested makes people the best version of themselves, and truly transforms them and their communities.

So freshman, women and men of Mount Ida, use your time here well.

And that selfie you just took – take one again at Commencement.  You will look a little different- more mature and knowing – but the real difference will be on the inside, where it really counts, we will have helped you become your own self – your better self to go into the real world – to be the success we know you will be – and both you and all of us at Mount Ida will be very very proud.

We welcome each and every one of you, your parents, families and friends to the Mount Ida community.  Each of you is our future.  This is the place to make your dreams your own reality.

Welcome to one of America’s great small colleges – welcome to Mount Ida and may your days here be filled with wonder and joy.

Thank you!!