Salma Waly (MA '08) Connects Global Educators to Promote Equity and Inclusivity
Salma Waly (MA '08) wears many hats, from professor, trainer and consultant to mother, author and, most recently, CEO of her own business.
The thread that unifies all of her roles is a passion for equitable and inclusive education, not only for students of all ages but also for her fellow teachers.
“I am very passionate about teacher education. I believe that preparing teachers who can attend to the needs of all of their students is key to determining the quality of education in a society,” Waly explained.
After years of working as both an academic and practitioner in the field, early last year, Waly took the step to formally establish her own educational consultancy, Universal Narratives.
“This was a project that I had always wanted to start but needed time to focus on,” said Waly. “I have worked with educators from many parts of the world, and I have felt that there is not really an educational platform dedicated to connecting global educators.”
Universal Narratives provides educational and consultancy services to education providers, be they schools, universities, faith-based initiatives, NGOs or academic programs.
“Our unique approach focuses on empowering individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, and helping organizations meet the specific needs of the populations that they serve,” Waly summarized.
Waly also hosts the Universal Narratives podcast, on which she interviews global educators on topics ranging from educational reform to teacher identity to refugee education.
“I feel that educators from underrepresented countries, and especially women, do not always have a chance to speak about the great work that they do. I wanted Universal Narratives to provide a platform that can amplify their voices,” she explained.
Cultivating her passion for education
Asked how her career in education began, Waly recalled that “growing up, I was a very curious learner, and subjects like geography and history always intrigued me. I wanted to learn about the world and connect with people from different backgrounds.
“Education is a field that allows you to connect with others, and I have always aspired to be someone who builds bridges and fills communication gaps,” she explained. “When I started my undergraduate program, I immediately realized that teaching was my passion.”
After completing bachelor’s degree in Special Education and Teaching at Dar Al-Hekma University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Waly arrived at AUC to pursue her master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL).
“I chose AUC because I felt it was the best place to develop my skills. The TESOL program was, and still is, one of the most renowned programs in the region.
“Still, I didn’t realize beforehand that AUC was going to change my life,” Waly admitted. “In addition to connecting me with great professors and classmates and developing my understanding of educational issues, my time in AUC changed me as a human.
“Teaching at the School of Continuing Education helped me understand the major role language education can play in improving a person’s quality of a person’s life,” she said. “Tutoring refugees with the Student Action for Refugees program expanded my understanding of how global issues affect individuals."
Her time at AUC helped Waly to identify her passion for equity and social justice in education. “I believe that every person, regardless of their racial, ethnic, or socio-economic background, should receive an education that helps them to realize their full potential,” she affirmed.
Using her education to transform the world
After graduating from AUC, Waly moved to the U.S. to pursue her PhD in Educational Instruction and Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. She then spent several years in New York City working as both an academic and practitioner and earning a master’s in educational leadership at Queens College of City University of New York (CUNY) before launching Universal Narratives.
Presently, she is a clinical supervisor at CUNY, Hunter College as well as a clinical supervisor and assistant professor at Pace University, in addition to running her company. In these roles she educates and mentors public and private school teachers on working with different types of learners.
Inspired by her experiences as both an educator working in a diverse international city and a parent raising two multiracial daughters, Waly has also found the time to launch a series of children’s picture books called Maryam the New Yorker, the first of which was published in April last year.
Waly explained, “I wrote this book because I want every child to see him or herself in literature that they read. My message to every child is that you never have to change who you are or be ashamed of where you come from. Your experiences are valid, and you can have a profound impact in the world.