Alumna Serves on COVID-19 Response Task Force

MSU College of Arts & Letters alumna Zekiye Salman is helping her community in the fight against COVID-19 as a member of the Ingham County COVID-19 Response Task Force, a position for which her MSU education helped prepare and lay the groundwork for.

Salman, who graduated from MSU in 2013 with dual bachelor’s degrees in Religious Studies and History, is the Personnel and Volunteer Coordinator for the task force responsible for coordinating and assigning Ingham County employees to fulfill emergency roles as needed or to support COVID-related response efforts.

My education at Michigan State laid the foundation for the interests and skills I have used throughout my work.

She also is part of a team tasked with addressing racial disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic and is working to create isolation and quarantine spaces for community members who can’t safely distance themselves otherwise.

“The racial disparities team I’m a part of has been focusing on increasing testing for communities that are being hardest hit by the virus,” Salman said, “We’ve led some testing events at neighborhood and community centers, rallies for racial justice, and places of worship. Our hope is to ensure that testing is available for everyone who needs it.”

Salman also works with volunteers to help educate healthcare providers and the public on the latest COVID-19 information, including testing events.

Tent with a signs that says Ingham County Health Department
Ingham County Health Department COVID-19 Testing Event

“Because we’re all inundated with research from different credible sources based on our focus areas and share this information with each other, we’re all able to help educate each other on different aspects of the virus and how it is impacting our community,” Salman said.

Prior to the pandemic, Salman had just begun her role as the Grants Coordinator for the Ingham County Health Department. Now, she spends most of her time working on the COVID-19 response.

“Both of the grant proposals I’ve written have incorporated data from COVID and how it has impacted our community,” Salman said, “So what I’m writing about, how I’m framing the work we want to do, and even what funding is available has been influenced by COVID as grant makers shift resources to address the pandemic.”

Before working for the Ingham County Health Department, Salman served as an AmeriCorps member. For about a year, she worked as a College Access Coordinator at Delta College and spent two years after that as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader with the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

three people standing side by side wearing a green t shirt
Maggie Harris (left), Dylan Davids (center), and Zekiye Salman (right) at an AmeriCorps VISTA event

“My education at Michigan State laid the foundation for the interests and skills I have used throughout my work,” Salman said. “My time at MSU also showed me how to incorporate an ethics of care into the work I do and to center the well-being of my community at every stage of work, from planning to implementation to evaluation. I try to keep those principles at the center of my work, to continue to learn and grow and to take advantages of every opportunity that comes my way.”

Not only did her MSU education help her incorporate and ethics of care into her work, it also helped her view the world through a different lens, which is essential to her career today.

 “I find most compelling about these two subjects together (Religious Studies and History) is that they help create a lens by which we can analyze the world we live in today,” Salman said. “I tend to use this more in advocacy work, but even with grant writing you’re telling a story that connects history with a value system and vision for the future that you hope will inspire grant makers to fund you.”

woman wearing a green gown sitting in a tree
Zekiye Salman Class of 2013

Outside of work, Salman gives back to the community in another way by serving as President of the Lansing Association for Human Rights Inc., which works to help advance LGBTQIA+ rights.

“Whether it is building relationships with public officials or other organizations in your field to build coalitions and advance issues, its building relationships with members of the community that gives us life,” Salman said. “These relationships sustain us and give us hope and allow us to move our work forward.”