Women's History Month Student Life spotlights

March 29, 2024 

Meet some of the remarkable women in the Student Life community featured in the 2024 Women's History Month spotlights. To see all spotlights, visit Student Life's Instagram

Laura Sahyouni

First year undergraduate
Major: Psychology

Laura Sahyouni, first year undergraduate

 “Growing up, it was so common for me to be told that I should pursue certain career paths because they were more suitable for women. Even with the plan to study medicine, I've been told that the amount of time required for the field isn't meant for women because we are meant to stay home. 

I overcome this stigma by surrounding myself with the incredible community of women who live in the Martha Cook Building. We help one another work toward our goals, and I hope to encourage younger girls to do the same. 

Going into the medical field can be quite daunting because of its lengthy education and difficult course loads, but my biggest advice is to remember what you're working towards, and how lucky you are to have the opportunity to study the subjects you are interested in. You are not alone in your challenges. You have the freedom to forge your path, and being a woman should never be a barrier; prove others wrong and be the best person you can be.”

Role models:

"My mom, my aunts and my grandmother because they have worked so hard for the lives they created for themselves and their families. Michelle Obama as well as she is well-educated, promotes public health and is a talented public speaker. She inspires young women to be hardworking and work toward their goals, and I aspire to be as accomplished as she is."

Fun facts:

  • Extracurriculars: The Undergraduate Psychology Society, First-Gen Pre-Health Association, Campus Philharmonic Orchestra and Letters of Love
  • Favorite U-M class: Psych 111, Intro to psychology


Nancy Chen

Senior undergraduate
Major: organizational studies and philosophy, politics and economics

Nancy Chen, senior undergraduate

“It is great being a woman at the University of Michigan because I am surrounded by so many other intelligent and approachable women who are not afraid to help or speak-up. At times, I felt imposter syndrome while taking classes that were predominantly male. 

The most important thing that helped me to overcome this feeling was my supportive communities–my friends encouraged me and were there for all my stories and challenges, and the GSIs provided a better understanding of the course material and served as friends, too.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions because they will only expedite your understanding. Everyone is on different learning paths, so it’s okay if yours doesn’t look like the person next to you. Most importantly, believe in yourself! You are so much more capable than what you think you are.”

Role models:

"My mentor, who always believed in me, from when I started learning English to when I applied to Michigan, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her persistence, determination and outspokenness in fighting for her community and those who are underrepresented in policy."

Fun facts:

  • Extracurriculars: President of Women in Leadership, Chair of Internal Development for Women in Law and Co-Event Lead for the Organizational Studies department
  • Favorite U-M class: MO 455, The science of flourishing at work and beyond


Xanthe Thomas

Senior undergraduate
Major: environmental engineering

Xanthe Thomas, senior undergraduate

“Engineering in general is a really male-dominated field in higher education and in the professional world. For me, noticing the lack of representation and some occasional gender bias was challenging. Having supportive friends has been the most helpful for overcoming this. In the professional world, it has helped me to identify women in the field and just reach out to them to build relationships and find opportunities. 

If you’re considering pursuing an education in environmental engineering, remember that you do not need to prove yourself to others. Be confident in yourself and your abilities! Also, try your best to find a mentor that supports you and your growth.”

Role models:

"My mom has so much empathy and compassion for others, embraces challenges, and never gives up even in the face of hardships. Point blank–she is an absolute powerhouse and I love her more than anything. Ellen Swallow Richards was a leader in the field of sanitary engineering and the first woman in America to enter a scientific school. She paved the way for future female scientists and engineers."

Fun Facts:

  • Extracurricular: University of Michigan Concrete Canoe Team
  • Favorite U-M class: Sediment Transport


Paige Johnson

Junior undergraduate
Major: biopsychology, cognition and neuroscience

Paige Johnson, junior undergraduate

“As a child, I struggled for many years due to problems caused by a brain tumor. Working hard and connecting with the right people for support and medical services was essential to overcome these setbacks. 

Now in college, I face unique challenges as a person with two disabilities (vision loss and medical) as well as ADHD. I had to get comfortable with self-advocacy and I found a community of similar peers to uplift me. 

It can be difficult to be successful, but small successes can give you the confidence and experience to take on bigger challenges more easily. Each success and accomplishment can open a lot of doors for you and snowball into a really successful academic and career path. It’s okay if you’re not successful all the time, or if your path is different than others. You are unique and so is your path!”

Role models:

"My public health mentor Jordan Greene inspires me because she’s passionate about the field and uses her degree to tackle social justice issues. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the whistle-blower for the Flint water crisis, because she put the health and safety of her community first, refusing to allow the cover-up and lies to continue."

Fun Facts:

  • Extracurricular: Resident Advisor and Wolverine Support Network
  • Favorite U-M class: Soc 100, Intro to sociology