Engineering’s Shun Ahmed is 2022 Outstanding Senior at Vanderbilt

Chancellor Daniel Diermeier presented the Outstanding Senior Award to Shun Ahmed at halftime festivities during the homecoming football game Saturday, Oct. 23.

Shun Ahmed has a passion for diversity, inclusion and volunteering. Vanderbilt community members recognized Ahmed’s impact throughout her time at Vanderbilt when she was named 2022 Outstanding Senior on Oct. 23 during the halftime program of the Homecoming football game versus Mississippi State.

“Receiving this award has both a sentimental and physical meaning to me. Physically, it was a milestone, knowing that I am so much closer to finishing my time at Vanderbilt,” Ahmed said. “Sentimentally, the award felt like a moment of recognition, where this community decided the work I do deserves this.”

Shun Ahmed

Ahmed is an engineering science major with a concentration in STEM public policy and with minors in political science and engineering management. She also is a member of the 2018 10-student class in the A. James Clark Scholars Program in the School of Engineering.

Outstanding Senior is among the highest honors an undergraduate student can receive at Vanderbilt. The award recognizes a senior who exemplifies the values of the university community through their leadership, service and passion. The 2022 finalists for Outstanding Senior included Kaylin Davis, Melissa Goldin, Schuyler Kresge, Ashwin Kumar, Jack Mok, Varsha Nair, Chidiogo Nwakoby, Emma Rafatjoo and Maddie Woods. Engineering senior Kumar is a dual bachelor’s-master’s student in computer science and neuroscience.

Ahmed’s leadership experience grew in roles within Vanderbilt Student Government. She served as Diversity and Inclusion vice chair as a sophomore, vice president of the student body as a junior, and Campus Life chair as a senior.

Veer Shah and Shun Ahmed win VSG president and vice president positions for 2020-2021

“I have spent my years giving back to the community, whether it’s volunteering to mentor local robotics teams, working with Swipes for A Cause to donate thousands of meals, or even getting pied for a few hours to raise money for Camp Kesem,” she said. “Service has truly been a central part of my years at Vanderbilt.”

An engineering major offered Ahmed two benefits. “The nature of engineering is human-centered work. I know that all I do will have a better impact on society. The problem-solving skills that engineering teaches me will be invaluable in the work I hope to do,” she said. “Especially as a woman, the community of female engineers and female engineering students became one of the biggest reasons I chose to stay here. I knew that no matter what happened, I would have folks who would help me navigate the major.”

Ahmed also chose Vanderbilt to remain close to her family.

“Kurdish culture is one that always surrounds family. I stayed in town to be closer to them and take care of them when I can,” Ahmed said. “From my parents, who were older refugees and needed my help sometimes, to my little sister, whom I’ve always been so close to, I didn’t want to miss out on the traditions and memories that home has to offer.”

“My sister was just learning about the world. I definitely didn’t want to miss her growing up!” Ahmed said. “It was an added bonus to have Vanderbilt just down the street.”

The community of Clark Scholars was important to Ahmed. The Clark Scholars Program balances individualized mentoring and the support of a cohort community for first-generation, women and underrepresented minority students. Each year since 2017, cohort of 10 undergraduate students enters the School of Engineering as Clark Scholars.

“The community of Clark Scholars is a quiet but impactful one. From befriending other Clark Scholars to the activities we shared together, I have so many memories I will forever be grateful for,” she said. “This was the first community I had on campus and has been the foundation of my four years at Vanderbilt. Through highs and lows, I’m always so grateful for the connections and mentorship that the Clark Scholar program has provided.”

“A new chapter is starting soon, and it’s about the time I take what Vanderbilt has taught me and go apply it in the real world.”

Ahmed plans a gap year to work in the technical end of media production to sharpen her skills in project management, something she enjoys immensely. “Amidst the gap year, my goal also is to apply to graduate schools and to further my public policy knowledge. I’d like to work within the field of STEM policy in the long term,” she said.

Ahmed has one thought she’d like to share with students: “Asking for help isn’t a weakness. I wish I had done so sooner. There are so many resources here and people on campus who care about you.”

Contact: Brenda Ellis, 615 343-6314