UMR Student Conducts Research on Student Experience with the Hijab

Authored By: wells438 05/17/2023
UMR student posing in front of research poster

As part of her undergraduate studies, UMR alumna, Ruqayah Ali decided to conduct an independent qualitative research study on the experience of Muslim undergraduate women in the STEM field with the hijab. Her research project is titled, “The Hidden Meanings Behind the Hijab to Muslim Undergraduate Women.”

“Globally, there are strong and varying feelings about the hijab; in Iran, school girls have staged protests against wearing the hijab, and in other countries, girls and women have had to fight for the right to wear it. This study seeks to explore the experiences in western societies such as the United States, where freedom of expression is consistently fought for but yet there are mixed feelings when it comes to the hijab. In this qualitative research, we interviewed five Muslim undergraduate women who were STEM majors to learn about their experiences with the hijab.”

Themes that came about from her research include: 

    • Wearing a hijab is empowering and a personal affirmation of faith.
    • Hijabs remind interviewees to stay true to their beliefs and values.
    • Stereotypes are prevalent for those that wear a hijab and therefore leads to feelings of working extra hard to be recognized and seen as equal in western societies.

Ruqayah presented her research at the Midwest Sociological Society (MSS) annual meeting in Minneapolis on March 25. This opportunity allowed her to share her research and exchange ideas with scholars who had similar interests in culture and identity. She received great feedback to help improve her research and shifted her focus on areas that are unique to her results. She also participated in UMR’s Research and Education Symposium this spring. 

Ruqayah, also the 2022-23 President of Muslim Students Association at UMR graduated this spring and plans to attend Physician Assistant school. She will continue to further pursue and publish her research. 

“It has been fantastic to work with Ruqayah over these past few semesters. She is a dedicated student who has done much to develop her research skills. She has identified other work in her research area, designed a project, collected and analyzed data, and disseminated her findings in polished form. She has approached her work with an open mind and critical eye. I'm very proud of the work she has produced,” writes Molly Dingel, CLI Faculty.