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Representing My Culture with Leen Mortada
Episode 1329th November 2021 • Our Roots Say That We're Sisters • Marquette University
00:00:00 00:25:25

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In this episode, our host Sheena Carey talks to Leen Mortada, a sophomore majoring in International Affairs, Criminology and Law Studies at Marquette University. 

Episode Highlights:

4:12 Marquette offers so many ways to help people that are around us to actually start programs that will uplift those who are like me. Marquette gives you the opportunity to lead and be that difference in your own community. 

7:34 My younger experience has made me very independent and confident in how to approach and answer situations where I might be confronted about my own identity. It also made me feel closer to my people, culture and religion. 

14:15 Marquette offers so many people that want to help you succeed. I feel like that is the number one thing Marquette wants you to do, succeed. They give you the means and ways to do so once you step into one role in the community. 

17:15 However, I feel like vulnerability is something that’s essential in making others see that you’re just like them. It can help people that might be against you understand that you two are the same way, you feel those emotions that they feel as well. 

21:37 I want them to know that I was uncomfortable, I also went through a lot of hardships. I just want them to know that when they see me, hopefully succeeding in my career, that they too will also be able to do that. 


1:20 What’s the story you would like to share with us today? – I’m excited to share a story about a girl who lives in America with parents that are from outside of the country, from Syria. 

1:58 What’s the story behind your name? – My last name is an Arab name and it stems from my religion, the Prophet, Muhammad’s family. It means strong, chosen, uplifted and powerful. 

2:41 What does it mean to be a Syrian-American student in Marquette? – Being Syrian is sometimes hard because of being different or a minority. However, it’s also exciting, it gives me an opportunity to teach people about who I am, where I’m from and what that means. 

3:45 How did you get on your path to Marquette? – Marquette is very close to my home which is important because in Arab’s culture, family always comes first. It’s a priority to take care of those people around you, to be there for them and to be near them. It gave me the perfect opportunity to be with my family. 

4:42 What are some ways that you’ve taken advantage of those opportunities? – One of them is being part of the Office of Engagement and Inclusion where we deal with a lot of cultural program planning. It also gave me this opportunity to start this Talk Circle where I can have Arab women and Muslim women talk about what they go through daily. 

5:40 So the Talk Circles are primarily for Marquette students, do you ever bring in folks from the wider community? – Yes, we can bring in folks from the wider community. However, right now, I want to start with just the Marquette students and slowly build that connection and friendship, which is essential in order to feel more confident in yourself and to go and lean on other people that are around your age. 

6:25 What are some of the ways in which your identity has influenced the choices that you've made not only in terms of area of study, but just in terms of life choices? – When I was young, I had to wear my Hijab at age seven, which is very young for any Muslim in general and because of that, I had to be independent at an early age. 

9:11 So what are the ways in which the mural project and just the visual of the mural, how did that resonate for you? - I love the mural project, I remember when it was started last year, there were so many people painting the mural project together and it was such a beautiful experience to watch it happen and to physically see it every time I walk past it is just amazing especially since there's representation, I can see myself there. I can resonate with that mural. 

11:10 What would you say Marquette’s impact has been on women of color here on campus? - I would say there are pros and cons to the impact Marquette has left on women of color. I feel like if people do not know of the resources offered to them, it can be a very negative environment, due to the statistics of who attends Marquette. There isn’t a lot of representation for people of color and sometimes they don’t get the help they need. However, Marquette does a very good job in offering them, it’s just that it doesn’t reach a lot of women. 

13:19 How would you say Marquette has impacted your sense of self-worth? – I feel like Marquette has given me the opportunity to be a leader. 

15:01 In addition to your mother, who are some of the women of color who have influenced you? – I would say Janeane Najib because of the work that she does. It’s amazing how many communities she has affected and helped. 

16:39 What’s the role that vulnerability has played in the path that you’ve taken, that you’ve made and the challenges that you faced? - I feel like vulnerability is something that’s essential in making others see that you’re just like them. It can help people that might be against you understand that you two are the same way, you feel those emotions that they feel as well. 

18:37 What are your hopes for women of color on Marquette campus? - I really hope that we can be the frontline of Marquette, that when they look at potential leaders, they look at women of color as the first choice. 

19:38 What are your hopes for the future of Marquette? – I hope that in the future, the mural will definitely still be up. I also hope that there will be amazing programs for people of color. 

21:20 What about hope for your own future? – I hope that I can be someone that people will look up to follow their dreams and to know that they can do it too. 

22:26 You have many majors; how do those work out for you as it relates to your hopes for the future? -  I hope to be a prosecutor in the future in the criminal field. However, I want to know more about people, which I feel is essential. 

24:07 What would you like our community to know about you and your journey? – Thank you, first of all for the support everyone has shown me and also to be on the lookout because I will keep going and I’m going to pursue what I want to pursue, I will take any and every opportunity to get to that. 

Contact information:

Jacki Black

pronouns: she/her/hers

Associate Director for Hispanic Initiatives

Marquette University

454 Zilber Hall | PO Box 1881 | Milwaukee, WI 53201



The Our Roots Say That We're Sisters Podcast series was recorded and produced by Podcast Town (




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