Alumna of the Month: March 2008
Namira Salim '92
What is your edge (strength)?
My perseverance in following the voice within, and my absolute faith in it.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
Hofstra gave me my initial exposure to the Western world when I first came to study in the United States. Not being the typical academic type, my active involvement in extracurricular activities gave me the confidence to make a difference in the world around me. AIESEC was my best training ground and an all-encompassing experience from learning how to correspond to meeting CEOs, to participation in national and international conferences, learning, training, traveling, etc. Coming from a rather protective cultural environment, all this led me to discover the "power of my potential." I guess that's what gave me my edge, which has stayed with me ever since.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I am fundamentally a creative person. Between my international business degree from Hofstra and international affairs master's degree from Columbia, I have come to advocate issues of global concern through my art, which incorporates built-in voice and music boxes. I also undertook my recent North and South Pole expeditions to voice a message of universal peace. My slogan is "Peace-Making with Nation-Souls." Due to my involvement with Virgin Galactic, I am a most active spokesperson in the field of private space travel, which has encouraged women and children from my home country to reach for the stars.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
After graduation, I directly went on to develop AIESEC in Pakistan. This was like raising my own baby, where every step became rewarding. Then I worked for my father's business, where my free-spirited, creative side met with some disciplining. That was important. My father is an ex-army man, but I call him a "mild military heart"!
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
The difference my publicity has made in the lives of women and children of Pakistan and the encouragement it brings for them to excel in all fields.
Who in your field do you most admire?
Nelson Mandela is my favorite global personality, one with a universal, selfless spirit and one who will remain immortal. I am deeply touched by people who have the conviction to live and die for a cause. In my lifetime, I do hope to make a lasting difference in the lives of others.
What was your major?
What was your favorite class?
Really fun and creative classes with Dr. Rusty Moore.
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
AIESEC and the minestrone soup that I always had for lunch!
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What advice would you give current students?
Always believe in your dreams. However, to reach them, it is vital to base one's strategies on sound judgment. Timing is very crucial, and things only happen when they are meant to. Sometimes it is important to surrender, but that doesn't mean giving up!
How do you balance work and life?
My work itself is my passion. But being in solitude and being close to nature during expeditions instills more faith in me to go further and further. Tuning into my inner voice is my balancing act.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In a much more comfortable position to make a difference in the lives of others. Having more influence.
You will have the very exciting distinction of being the first Pakistani woman in space when the Virgin Galactic makes its maiden voyage in 2009. Can you tell us a little more about the process you went through to be selected for this trip?
I will be the first Pakistani ever in space. It took a year of negotiations since I wanted to be the first from my country. I think what helped the most was that I was very proactive. I contacted them very early in the process. Moreover, my diverse living experiences in Pakistan, Monaco and Dubai [UAE] counted. And due to my role as a peace ambassador through my art, I have also become one of the very few and most active spokespersons in Virgin Galactic's Astronaut Club.
Has it been a challenge to be an artist in the international market?
Very much so. But I never looked to break into the usual art market. My work made its own little niche in international circles at top UN and UNESCO and other summits. And that is where I wanted to be heard. In fact, due to my polar expeditions and my involvement in the private space industry, my art has taken a back seat. However, with so much press behind me, I am excited to get back to my art and make a greater impact by reaching the masses. I am looking to make music videos next, which will feature my art, not my face!
Of all your amazing achievements, which are you most proud of?
The high-profile dignitaries I meet, who inspire me to carry on amid all challenges, and the most amazing adventurers I recently met in Antarctica, who encourage me to explore new territories.
What would you tell young women who wish to make a mark for themselves in traditionally male careers?
Never think you are less, and never fall into the misconception that you could be discriminated against. If you experience this in a male-dominated career, you must go on undeterred and have faith that the problem lies with the other person and not you. It is all about having the right mindset.
Namira Salim’s selection as founder astronaut of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial space-line, will make her the first Pakistani and the first UAE resident to experience space travel in 2009. After being introduced to the international press by Sir Richard Branson in early 2006, Namira was officially launched by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in Pakistan as the “first Pakistani astronaut.” With unprecedented media support, she became an international role model for the women of Pakistan, South Asia and the Gulf, encouraging them to excel in all spheres of life.
On April 21, 2007, Namira brought laurels to Pakistan by becoming the first Pakistani at the North Pole in her capacity as Pakistan’s honorary ambassador of tourism. On January 10, 2008, she travelled to the South Pole on a peace expedition as the first Pakistani national to reach 90 degrees south. She also is the first female at the North and South Poles from her two “adopted” countries, Monaco and the UAE.
Namira’s artistic creations have been exhibited and viewed at top international humanitarian summits at the United Nations and UNESCO and during the historic SAARC Summit in Pakistan in 2004. At supporting events for high-profile meetings, her art has regularly voiced peace and goodwill messages before world leaders. Namira created a specialized line of musical art objects under the theme “PEACE-MAKING with NATION-SOULS” containing built-in songs in her own voice and built-in messages in the voices of distinguished humanitarian personalities. These were first unveiled at the United Nations in New York during the UN General Assembly in 2002.
For her recent accomplishments, Namira will be receiving the “Pakistan Woman of the Year Award” and has also been nominated for the prestigious “Emirates Woman of the Year Award” from Dubai.
Namira Salim holds a bachelor’s degree in international business from Hofstra University. With a very active extracurricular life, she was a student senator at Hofstra and chairperson of the International Students Association. Her membership in AIESEC (International Association of Students in Economics and Business Management) at Hofstra led Namira to become the founding president of AIESEC in Pakistan, the largest student-run, nonprofit organization of the world, which promotes peace and cooperation through corporate and cultural exchange programs. This organization created opportunities for several foreign interns to work in Pakistan and resulted in placing several Pakistanis in permanent jobs in the United States, Europe and the Far East.
Namira also holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University with a specialty in management of innovation and entrepreneurship. She has also pursued programmes at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.