Building Bridges to Business

Phillips Scholar Nassima El Kasmi ’22 will launch a program to help mentor girls into the business field.

Nassima El Kasmi ’22 is an amazing networker. As an extremely social person, El Kasmi made friends with students from other area colleges who came from various countries. Through her diverse group of friends, she discovered a common theme – many women who come from minority groups lack the local network to believe they can succeed in the business world. El Kasmi hopes to change that through her Phillips Scholarship project.

Named a 2020 Phillips Scholar, El Kasmi will spend the next year working through the logistics of launching the Women and Business Mentorship Program for Moorhead High School women who are minorities. The Phillips Scholarship provides a $6,000 scholarship for the recipients’ junior and senior year and a stipend for the summer in between those years to implement their project. The Phillips Scholarship theme for the past three years has been “Bridging the achievement gap in Minnesota.”

“There aren’t many opportunities in which a student gets to create a project for the community and then have the kind of support that makes it happen,” says Jon Leiseth, campus ministry deacon and an advisor who accompanies students through the scholarship application process.

Leiseth knows the extensive process El Kasmi had to go through to earn the scholarship since the application is really a full project proposal. He says the projects that are selected and succeed most often are deeply personal and come from a place of personal inspiration. This was true for El Kasmi. In her first business classes, she says there were far fewer women than men. The gender disparity made her take notice of whether or not the women, who were in the minority, took part in class discussions. Once she got to know more professors who became mentors for her, she had more confidence in her ability to succeed in business. El Kasmi believes that a key to success is having people as resources to turn to. 

“I want these young women to think about mentorship programs, that you have someone to go to with questions. If you want to have a clear vision you should have a mentor,” El Kasmi says.

It is El Kasmi’s goal to implement her mentorship program next summer. She hopes to involve six to eight high school students in weekly mentorship opportunities as well as listening to speakers and presentations about business and leadership. One of the integral pieces of the program is that the scholars need to have a plan, but also must be agile when it comes to implementation. 

“A wonderful thing about the Phillips Scholars Program is it recognizes and embraces the emerging needs of a community,” Leiseth says. “The need looks different from the ‘inside’ and the Phillips Scholars adapt to those circumstances.” 

It’s El Kasmi’s hope that once the program for girls is up and running it won’t be complete, but instead can be carried on by others once she graduates.