Shakura Salahaladyn

Shakura Salahaladyn is always looking for the next opportunity.

That’s because Salahaladyn is a first-generation college student who understands how crucial higher education is—and where it can take someone. At UW Oshkosh, she’s a junior majoring in interactive web management and minoring in public relations.

Salahaladyn grew up in the inner city of Milwaukee; she’s one of 13 children.

“Where we come from, that’s the only way out—pursuing higher education,” Salahaladyn said. “I am an observant type person and when I look around me at those who are successful and what they did to get there—it was college.”

But Salahaladyn is doing more than just pursuing a college education. She’s building her future. At UW Oshkosh, Salahaladyn is involved in a long list of activities—she’s an intern within the University’s integrated marketing communications department, a community adviser in South Gruenhagen Hall, the Oshkosh Student Association’s marketing ambassador, a McNair Scholar, and is involved with many clubs, student organizations and campus initiatives.

While Salahaladyn is involved in many activities, organizations and causes at UW Oshkosh, she notes being the student diversity coordinator as her favorite role. As student diversity coordinator, Salahaladyn is charged with planning and promoting multicultural programs.

“Coming from an urban area to UW Oshkosh, it’s a real reminder of your blackness. I’m secluded in some ways,” she said. “I am a person who is sure of myself—and it’s still hard sometimes. But that is why I’m passionate about being the diversity coordinator.”

Salahaladyn, among many other scholarships and awards, was the recent recipient of this year’s African American Student Leadership Award—an award that commemorates the anniversary of Black Thursday, the Nov. 21, 1968, protest by African-American students attending the then Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh. The award recognizes students who continue the efforts of the Oshkosh 94 to advance the standing and experiences of African-American students at UW Oshkosh.

Salahaladyn is the third student at UW Oshkosh to win the award since its announced beginning in 2013. Making the recognition even more important to Salahaladyn—her older sister, Shariah, someone she said she deeply admirers, was the first recipient of the award at UW Oshkosh.

“My sister was really the one who forced me to get involved at UW Oshkosh,” Salahaladyn said, acknowledging she came to the University as a transfer student and was not initially excited to be a UWO student.

“As a first-generation college student, I don’t really have anyone to look up to but my sister. She is my idol, the oldest in my family and a true model of success for me.”

Stephen Kercher, UW Oshkosh history professor, had the honor of awarding Salahaladyn with the award at this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration in January.

“This is an award given for leadership accomplishments and potential. We hope Shakura continues to demonstrate leadership,” said Kercher, who also had the honor three years ago of presenting Shariah Salahaladyn the same scholarship award.

Kercher said he thinks it’s especially special for Salahaladyn to have won this year’s award—and hopes Salahaladyn will follow in her sister’s successful footsteps. Shariah Salahaladyn is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, a choice Kercher calls “impressive.”

Graduate school is already an opportunity Salahaladyn is considering and excited about, which is one of the many reasons she works so many on-campus jobs—she understands the implications of borrowing money to pay for college, and she’s trying hard to stay educated about her financial choices, she said.

“Life is what you make it and as opportunities arise, I plan to keep taking them—and I plan to make mine something to remember,” Salahaladyn said.