Alumni who graduated during the past three decades have earned the top awards bestowed by the UWL Alumni Association. They’re being honored for distinguished service and successful careers.
Recognizes outstanding achievement of alumni who have brought honor and distinction to the university. Long-time administrator Maurice O. Graff instituted the honor in 1977.
Shelmina Abji, ’85
Shelmina Abji working to enable girls, women
Shelmina Abji started with humble beginnings growing up in the East African country of Tanzania. Her family sacrificed much so she could travel to the U.S. to study computer science, something she had read about in a magazine.
After adapting to Wisconsin winters — she arrived in January and had never felt temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit — and learning American customs, Abji graduated from UWL in 1985 with a computer science degree. She started her career as a computer programmer with ETA Systems before working for IBM.
Eventually, she had two children and moved into sales, where she discovered that her greatest strength was working with people. She propelled into sales leadership within a decade. She liked helping others meet their sales targets and soon became one of the highest-ranking executive women of color at IBM.
Abji has dedicated her next career move to empowering women, young and old. She shares her stories of overcoming obstacles and learning lessons along her personal and professional journeys. “It is my desire to inspire and accelerate the success of girls and women,” she explains.
And Abji has.
Sarah Laiwala, director of digital experiences for the Walt Disney Co., credits Abji for coaching her to an executive role in the prestigious company. “She has also inspired me through her own actions of empowering girls and women to reach their highest potential, which has led me to offer my time to children who need guidance on education,” says Laiwala.
Abji continues her passion for accelerating success of girls and women globally.
Previously on Ismailimail…