Salma Hussein

EdD Candidate Makes History as Pioneering Somali Principal

As the start of the school year nears, Hamline edD candidate Salma Hussein prepares for her second year as principal of Gideon Pond Elementary, and considers the impact her historic first year had on the Burnsville community.

Hussein, the first female Somali principal in her district and believed to be the first in the state, was hired by District 191 in July 2022, after pursuing administrative licensure at Hamline. During her first year, Hussein shouldered new responsibilities – not only as a principal, but by modeling a different form of leadership for the community

“I bring my whole self to work,” Hussein said. “At Hamline, Dr. Trish Harvey does a great job of cultivating community and at Gideon Pond we are a community … I am able to be myself, which means I am a Somali woman immigrant and English is my second language. For a long time I didn't view all those identities as a strength because society didn't see them as a strength.”

Leadership, success and responsibility were once a different image to Hussein, whose family settled in Minneapolis after immigrating to the United States. From an early age, she was encouraged to become a doctor. Hussein ultimately took a different path to success, and now uses her role to demonstrate to Gideon Pond students – 40% of which are also Somali – the varied opportunities they have to find success.

“You can't be what you don't see. Now that the kids see me, I have kids that have said they want to be a principal,” Hussein said. “In my household my parents only wanted every single child of theirs, including me, to be a doctor. But now young students are able to understand that success looks different and they get to define success – and it's really nice that it includes education.”

As Hussein pursues her doctorate in education, she continues to apply information learned at Hamline to Gideon Pond classrooms. Hussein greatly values the direct access Hamline provides to professors who are active or retired school administrators, who use decades of experiential knowledge to bolster coursework and readings.

“Hamline does a good job of attracting good people and investing in their futures, and those people bring their experiences – through conversations and discourse – we are able to learn together and co-create,” Hussein said. “That is the way of the future – dialogue, communication, collaboration.”