Zeal Center welcomes Engagement & Communication Intern, Manaal Ali, to the team. During her 4 months with Zeal, Manaal will be focused on collecting economic impact data, engaging area university students, and assisting with startup engagement and communication. You can reach her at [email protected].

Name: Manaal Ali

Age: 21

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Background & Experience:

I am currently pursuing a double major in Government & International Affairs and Sociology with a minor in Biology at Augustana University. While on campus, I have co-founded an Interfaith Reflection Room and a Muslim Students’ Association; served as a board member for Diversity and Inclusion Office and Augustana’s Honor Board; and was elected as President of International Club. In the summer of 2018, I traveled to Norway as a Peace Scholar and practiced conflict resolution work, studied international politics, and conducted research on environmental scarcity. An important stepping stone in my college career came this past spring with the approval of administration funding for an organization I created called HAPPY (Healthy, Accessible, Prevention & Protection for You). By providing free, organic, gender-neutral hygiene products to students on campus, HAPPY became a local leader in the movement toward period equality!

In addition to coursework and campus involvement, I have worked as a lab scientist for Sanford Research, an immigration assistant for Lutheran Social Services, a GOTV coordinator for LEAD, and a programs intern for the Women’s Foreign Policy Group (WFPG) in Washington, DC where I was able to publish the 2019 Guide to Women Leaders in International Affairs.

What brought you to Sioux Falls?

My dad’s job shifted us from Buffalo, New York to this corner of the Midwest right before 7th grade. I have lived in India, Chicago, and Staten Island too!

What do you love most about the Sioux Falls community?

When I first came to Sioux Falls–and for many years after–I was under the impression that it was a bland place with bland people. During my later high school years, however, I realized how much the opposite was true. There exists an incredible diversity of people, language, history, and thought within this small but thriving community. This is what I love the most: the surprises Sioux Falls covets. The strong grassroots activism that has been created by local leaders to preserve and celebrate this diversity is also something I appreciate deeply.

What interests you in the work Zeal Center is doing for area entrepreneurs and what are you hoping to accomplish in your time at Zeal?

Throughout my college career I have invested in projects and internships that I believe serve a greater purpose in both the community and the world. Zeal and its mission fall under this category. From supporting small businesses to women entrepreneurs, Zeal understands Sioux Falls’ appetite for growth and diversity. There is great value in sustaining relationships with people who possess a similar drive for success but who may stem from different backgrounds and pursue different interests. Zeal, through its emphasis on co-working, seeks to make this a reality. I hope to contribute what I can to a future where Zeal’s partners reflect the diversity of this city. Particularly, I look forward to compiling economic data and metrics to better understand areas of strength and weakness which could be used to fine-tune Zeal’s impact.

How do you think the entrepreneurial ecosystem can better engage area students?

Personally, I believe the best way to better engage students is to go to them first. This means setting up booths during vendor fairs, distributing flyers on campus, and advertising student discounts. Important school activities such as sports games, marathons, late-night shutdowns, and cultural events are key to getting students’ attention. It may not be feasible for a growing business to give discounted prices, however, actively advertising to school groups (i.e. UBG, International Club, etc. at Augustana) that host several diverse events could prove useful. Even one appearance may translate into higher number of products sold.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself as part of a nonprofit or think tank that specializes in conducting research and lobbying policy reform. Particularly, I would like the organization to focus on women’s rights in a particular area such as foreign policy, business, or technology.