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Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, professor emerita in women’s studies, shown above in her office in a 2019 photo. Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, professor emerita in women’s studies, shown above in her office in a 2019 photo.

Women’s Hall of Fame Honors Professor Emerita Huma Ahmed-Ghosh

Active in social justice causes from the local to international level, the former women's studies department chair helped revitalize the Women’s Resource Center.
By Leslie L.J. Reilly

Although she’s retired, she’s not resting. Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, professor emerita in women’s studies, is still as actively involved in social justice work and activism as she was when she began her career at San Diego State University in 1994.

Today, her focus is on literacy training through her work with License to Freedom, a refugee-serving organization she co-founded, dedicated to providing programs, support, and services for Afghan families resettling in San Diego. It ties in with her 29-year career as a professor and chair in women’s studies — and her commitment to activism, feminism, and social justice.

She is a founding member of numerous local organizations that help empower women such as South Asian Women's Initiative (now SDNari), a South Asian book club, and Survival English for Newly Arrived Afghans (a program of License to Freedom).

She will be inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame as an “Empowerer” on March 18. Former Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas (‘89), an SDSU alumna with a degree in social work, will also be inducted as a “Cultural Bridge Builder.”
Ahmed-Ghosh entered the women’s studies department in 1999 as a professor with a mission to advocate for women where she used energy, patience, and persistence to make changes at SDSU and in feminist and immigrant communities.

She contributed to the reinvention of the SDSU Women’s Resource Center after researching other university centers across the U.S. It took Ahmed-Ghosh a year of “stubbornly and assertively” persuading the university administration to see that her vision had value for SDSU and the broader community. Some days she would wait outside then-President Elliot Hirshman’s office to have a chance to tell him why this project was so important to her.

Doreen Mattingly, retired women’s studies department chair, said, “Huma could move mountains.”

Ahmed-Ghosh, who was promoted to chair of women’s studies before retiring in 2020, said her family played a pivotal role in teaching her about a strong work ethic. Her father was a professor and her mother an early feminist in India. She grew up in a family deeply embedded in social and political activism; her grandparents and relatives were freedom fighters.

“At SDSU I grew intellectually,” Ahmed-Ghosh said. “I feel blessed to be a contributor to the founding of several departments at SDSU including the Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies. I also made contributions to ISCOR, women’s studies, and the travel study abroad program for CAL, and developed courses on transnational feminism, Asian feminism, and gender studies.”

“Huma has worked tirelessly to enhance the reputation of the university by being integral to the fulfillment of the university’s strategic plan,” said Esther Rothblum, professor emerita of women’s studies.

Rothblum pointed out that more than any other scholar in the world, Ahmed-Ghosh has shaped the emerging field of research on Muslim women around the globe. She is nationally and internationally recognized for her research on Muslim women, both in South Asia and in the diaspora.

Ahmed-Ghosh was a member of the United Nations Commission on Social Policy and Welfare’s Technical Task Force on Aging, and a consultant to the World Bank’s Division of Agriculture and Development in Asia.

“She saw that the work was larger than just teaching in the classroom. She used education toward transformation,” Mattingly said. “The women’s justice projects were not only theoretical but practical.” Ahmed-Ghosh taught a practicum course where students in women’s studies could work on community-based projects with Afghan refugees.

Ahmed-Ghosh found it fulfilling to introduce students to the San Diego refugee community for mutual empowerment and understanding with a course called Engaged Citizenship and Social Responsibility (General Studies 480) with Jose Preciado, director of General Studies. It gave students exposure to the women refugees from Afghanistan. “It was almost like a study abroad in your own backyard,” she said.

She was exceptionally committed to mentoring and empowering students. Former student Diana Lara, now working on the government relations team at SDSU, said, “She shifted my perspective and because of her mentorship I applied for scholarships, political internships, and to study abroad in Tbilisi, Georgia.”

Lara has done postgraduate work for state Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and graduated from Hispanas Organized for Political Equality, and won numerous awards.

“After each milestone, I always send Huma a text thanking her for helping me get to where I am,” Lara said.

The San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame induction is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 18, at the Joan Kroc Theatre, 6611 University Avenue. Additional details can be found at the Women’s Hall of Fame website.