College of Education and Human Development

Institute of Child Development

Mentorship at ICD was a key to success for senior Salma Ibrahim

Salma Ibrahim

For Salma Ibrahim, receiving mentorship and being a mentor has been key to her undergraduate success as a developmental psychology major in the Institute of Child Development. Ibrahim was recently honored as a 2023 recipient of the President’s Student Leadership and Service Award. As she prepares to graduate, Ibrahim reflects on her time at ICD.

What led you to major in developmental psychology? (Ibrahim also completed minors in public health and neuroscience.)

I worked with the late Dr. Chad Marsolek at his cognitive neuroscience lab [in the Psychology department], where I gained valuable insight into the technical skills in psychological research. I found I had a bigger interest to explore methods to apply science to understand the social processes and psychology of people and communities like my own. The following summer, I worked as a research assistant in Dr. Dan Berry’s Bioecology, Self-Regulation, and Learning (BSL) lab. There I completed an independent research project that explored the differences in experiences in the context of poverty that influence attentional processes in middle childhood. Concurrently, I had joined Dr. Gail Ferguson’s Culture and Family Life (CFL) Lab at the time and received a fulfilling experience on both ends that prompted me to declare my major in developmental psychology the following semester.

What are some of the leadership and service opportunities you participated in?

Most notably, I’ve been working as a long-standing research assistant at Dr. Ferguson’s lab on the JUS Media? Global Classroom (JMGC), a global health intervention launched in Jamaica, designed to address the impact of US cable/media on eating habits by teaching adolescents and parents to question the underlying messages embedded in food advertising. Throughout my sophomore year, alongside a graduate student mentor, I co-led a cultural adaptation of the JUS Media? Program methodology for Somali families. This past academic year, I received funding to co-pilot the program implementation at a middle & high school in Minneapolis as the primary cultural insider ensuring culturally appropriate implementation and fidelity of critical program components.

I regularly volunteer with under-resourced elementary students at after-school homework programs in the Twin Cities metro area. I receive the most fulfillment in mentoring high school students, underclassmen, and peers through various research-intensive programs and peer mentoring to empower them to consider and even pursue research opportunities and graduate careers in their futures. I pride myself in creating mentoring relationships that inspire fellow students to action, which inspired me to create a peer mentorship system with my co-worker at the Office of Undergraduate Research. 

Another recent achievement of mine has been through my interest in policy work. I’ve recognized that work in academic research largely guides policy work and legislation. I’ve sought out a fellowship for BIPOC students to get involved with policy-making and public service through which I received placement to work with non-partisan researchers and advocates to pinpoint and develop policy to promote economic security for all Minnesotans.

What is next for you after graduation?

My undergraduate research experience and coursework sparked my interest in pursuing a career in research and I plan to apply to graduate school this upcoming cycle for developmental clinical psychology doctoral programs. In the meantime, I’ll be sticking around as a post-bacc research assistant and lab manager at Dr. Ferguson’s lab!

Anything else you would like to mention?

I’d like to express appreciation for the mentorship of the incredible faculty and graduate students at ICD. As an incoming freshman, I didn’t have much direction on what I’d like to do long term, but I knew I enjoyed learning and through that curiosity I crossed paths with many amazing people that have set me on the right trajectory to find a fulfilling career and life! From my first summer program working with Dr. Berry’s lab with Meriah DeJoseph and Keira Leneman; to joining Dr. Ferguson’s lab and working closely with her across the years, and with graduate students Sarah Gillespie and Tori Simenec on our work with JMGC. I’ve had the opportunity to attend conferences, work in large multidisciplinary teams, develop a research project through UROP, and so much more. And I continue to meet more people who make me thankful to be here and find community at such a large university.