Skip to main content
Skip to main menu Skip to spotlight region Skip to secondary region Skip to UGA region Skip to Tertiary region Skip to Quaternary region Skip to unit footer


From refugee to PhD: alumna Ayan Hussein

Somali Ayan Hussein says that attending UGA, where she earned a bachelor's degree in psychology, is the best decision she ever made:

When civil war broke out in Somalia in the early 1990s and raged on with no end in sight, Ayan Hussein’s parents knew they had to get their five children to safety.

The family fled first to a refugee camp in Kenya and then to a community with a significant refugee and immigrant population in Clarkston in 2003. Once in the United States, Hussein BS’12 realized that something she had only dreamed of was now actually possible: She could pursue higher education.

As a child, Hussein had promised herself that education would be her priority, despite being born into a culture that she says doesn’t place much value on women’s schooling.

“Even though adversity seemed to follow us, I made sure that nothing stood between my education and me,” says Hussein, now finishing her doctorate in neuroscience at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. As an undergraduate, she was awarded the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which enabled her to attend UGA. But the scholarship wasn’t a panacea for all the obstacles she faced.

“Despite a full scholarship and a strong desire to learn, I was poorly prepared for college,” she says, “but I quickly learned that I had to ask for help if I wanted to perform better.”

From the Spring 2018 Georgia magazine, an important reminder of the power of education, as well as the importance of welcoming refugees. This young doctor, with her drive and intelligence, will be part of creating health solutions that touch many people and what she needed to unlock that potential was an opportunity. Her story abounds with lessons for everyone.

Support Franklin College

We appreciate your financial support. Your gift is important to us and helps support critical opportunities for students and faculty alike, including lectures, travel support, and any number of educational events that augment the classroom experience. Click here to learn more about giving.