Embracing Professional Identity Formation – Holloran Center Professional Identity Implementation Blog

Embracing Professional Identity Formation

By: Ruwayda Issa, University of St. Thomas School of Law 1L

I was very nervous during the Muslim Law Student Association (MLSA) Iftar Dinner held at the University of St. Thomas School of Law this spring. My 1L year was full of twists and turns including a change of professors (my Torts professor accepted an appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court in the middle of the semester). Leading up to the Iftar dinner, I volunteered to be the moderator for the career panel during the event. I sat as an audience member throughout the past year hearing from various panels’ moderator and attorneys at different law school events. Now that I had an opportunity to serve as a moderator, I was nervous and focused on asking the right questions and keeping the audience engaged.

The panel conversation had a focus on professional identity formation as both attorneys are Muslim and persons of color who have faced adversity. I enjoyed the panel, and it provided me with a sense of clarity. I am a Muslim woman wearing a hijab that has juggled showing my different levels of identities in law school and law settings. I didn’t have a Muslim female attorney to look up to who could teach me how I should dress in professional settings. One ironic moment during the panel involved panelist Amran Farah, a Muslim female attorney, when she spoke about how she makes sure to wear a neutral-colored hijab if she is wearing a bold color for her blouse or blazer. I realized that I had employed that exact same approach myself for years, and I was already forming my professional identity in a way very similar to other female Muslim attorneys.

This event put my entire year into perspective and reminded me that I was on the right path. I look forward to planning next year’s Iftar Dinner with the rest of the MLSA board. Forming a professional identity is a continuing process, and learning from those who have helped pave the way is part of that beautiful, complicated process.

Ruwayda Issa is a rising 2L at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

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