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Atia Abawi

Atia Abawi

Her initial visit as USM’s first-ever author-in-residence was a smashing success.

For two weeks in October 2022, Atia Abawi—author, journalist, and humanitarian—met with students and teachers in all divisions as the school’s author-in-residence. This visit stoked imaginations and inspired new ideas, setting the stage for her next residencies in January and April. “I’ve had such a wonderful time working with the incredible students and faculty,” she said. “I can’t wait to dive in even deeper in the forthcoming trips.”

Abawi’s visit was arranged by Upper School faculty Kat Zilka and Laura Klein, with further support from faculty in each division. It is sponsored by a USM Think Big grant, an endowed fund supported by generous donors. Visit to learn more.

  • On Campus

Abawi met with each Lower School classroom at least once during her visit, often in the Stratton Preschool/Lower School Library. She discussed the importance of persistence and shared insights from her book, “She Persisted: Sally Ride,” about the first American woman in space.

Atia Abawi meets with a freshman English class around the harkness table.

Each freshman participated in a writing seminar with Abawi as part of their English 1 class. Students shared a fun fact, wrote a brief narrative, and were invited to read their work out loud. “Most students readily shared their writing because they felt comfortable with Atia and the environment she created,” said Kate Gay, Upper School English teacher. “They felt safe and honored as writers. It was a great community-building experience.”

Atia Abawi points to a globe while visiting a first grade classroom.

First grade students in Erica Melick’s class were excited to learn about the various continents where Abawi has lived. They also studied leadership and the qualities that good leaders possess. “Atia is so knowledgeable about what it means to be a leader in the world,” said Melick. “My students loved her visits and we can’t wait for her to come back.”

Atia Abawi meets with students in the Global Scholars program.

Students in the U.S. as a Global Superpower class, taught by Dr. Henry Wend, met with Abawi to discuss the Biden administration’s national security strategy. “Atia asked the students, ‘How much does a document like this matter?’” said Wend. “‘To whom does it matter? What are the sources of American power? What is the difference between soft power and hard power?’ It was a deep, thought-provoking conversation.”

Preschool students draw a picture while visiting with Atia Abawi.

After Abawi visited junior kindergarten students, Barrett Hopper ’36 (left) and Eliza Housiaux ’36 were inspired to write and illustrate their own books, which they then read to the class. “One of my JK friends said she didn’t know that girls could write books until she met Ms. Abawi,” said Harriette Engel ’14, junior kindergarten teacher.

Atia Abawi hosts a discussion with fellow Afghan refugee Maryam Durani.

Abawi hosted a discussion with Maryam Durani (pictured, right), a renowned Afghan women’s rights activist who is currently living in Milwaukee. Durani is known world-wide for her work to promote women’s rights, even surviving two assassination attempts by the Taliban. Upper School students learned about her about her refugee journey, her efforts to improve the status of women in Afghanistan, and her life in Milwaukee.