In celebration of Black History Month, Nebraska Today spoke to junior Marissa Cruse, an economics and pre-law major with a minor in community and regional planning from Belleville, Illinois. Through her involvements on campus — from tutoring fellow Huskers to her leadership positions — she’s making an impact.
You’re pretty involved on campus — from the Association of Students at the University of Nebraska (ASUN) to being a campus host to Undergraduate Women in Business. Why is being involved important for you and what have you learned from your involvements?
When I came to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as a freshman from southern Illinois, I did not know a single person on campus. Coming to a campus of tens of thousands of students can be extraordinarily overwhelming, and I think being a part of these organizations helped me build a community where campus doesn’t feel so big anymore. Being involved has helped me build a support network of other students whose experiences are similar to mine, and learn from other students who have had an entirely different experience.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your position with ASUN student government as a senator for the College of Business and by serving on the ASUN Diversity, and Inclusion Committee?
Currently, Furqan Mahdi — another Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee member — and I are working alongside UNL faculty members on establishing a multifaith prayer room on campus. Working on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee this year has fostered conversations between students of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Furqan, after seeing a similar project implemented at another public university, initially brought up this idea, and I am really excited to work on a vital and much-needed project with another student leader on campus. Generally speaking, I hope to leave behind impactful and meaningful projects that can address, or at least begin to address, some of the issues that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) face at a predominantly white institution.
You also serve as an economics tutor for the Teaching and Learning Center. What is your favorite part of tutoring fellow Huskers?
My favorite part of tutoring fellow Huskers is sharing my love for economics. Nothing is more exciting than watching students I tutor connect the concepts we learn in class to real-life examples. Watching students work hard and being able to assist them in their learning process has been really rewarding!
Talk a little bit about being a woman in business.
I think there are many parallels to the experience of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in regards to being a Black woman in a field that is dominated by white men. I think my experiences in the College of Business are largely shaped by my identity as a Black woman. For me, I have been able to find and confide in faculty members who are conscious of how my experiences as a student are different from some of my peers. I am lucky to have a support network within the College of Business of other women, specifically women of color that often can relate to my experience. Being a Black woman in this field has helped me appreciate the importance of building relationships and community with others who understand the complexities of my identity.
What do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
In my lifetime, I hope to give back to my community. I aspire to work in the nonprofit sector and ideally work for an organization that reflects the values of community and empathy.
What or who inspires you?
Personally, the Black women in my life who are all doing amazing and meaningful things on campus inspire me to continue to find new ways to make an impact. Women like Meyri Ibrahim, Aiah Nour and Batool Ibrahim (just to name a few) inspired me not only as a student, but as a woman. These women have spent their time at UNL making space in student leadership, and are fierce advocates for their communities. These women have shown me the power of leading with authenticity, and their commitment to change and inclusivity inspires me every day!
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact?
My advice to other students looking to make an impact is to tap into your own experience as a student, listen to your community and start asking important questions.