Women's History Week: Mother-Daughter Columbia Graduates Remain Motivated In Their Careers
NY1's coverage of Women's History continues with an update on a mother and daughter who made history by graduating together from Columbia University's School of General Studies in 2008. Circumstances have temporarily derailed their dreams but neither woman has lost her focus. Manhattan borough reporter Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
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Insaf Abdullah and her daughter Zaynab barely seem to have aged since 2008. NY1 first reported on the mother and daughter when they were making history, graduating together from Columbia University's School of General Studies.
"It was very competitive, she loves to compete. Like, 'What grade did you get on your paper? How well did you do on your midterm?'" Insaf Abdullah told NY1 at the time of her graduation.
Four years later, that competition has evolved:
"That rivalry still exists. It just exists towards different things. Now it's like, 'My pound cake is better than your pound cake,'" says Zaynab Abdullah.
But Zaynab and Insaf Abdullah remain career-oriented with degrees in Middle Eastern studies and political science, respectively.
Each of the women had big plans after graduation but a family illness forced them to temporarily postpone them.
"Unfortunately my husband got really sick," says Insaf Abdullah. "He had a major heart attack, he had gangrene, so he suffered a lot of pain and illness."
Insaf says her husband also had a quadruple bypass and amputations in both feet. She says last year he had a stroke and a MRSA infection and is about to get a pacemaker.
"Now everything is on hold, hoping that God will help him," says Insaf Abdullah.
For now, the Jordanian-born mother manages "Holy Land Group," the family's insurance brokerage. Zayhab Abdullah works for a software company in Jordan but is home to help.
"It might have not been what I wanted in 2008 but it's certainly fulfilling and it's certainly something that I enjoy doing. My parents gave me so much and the least I can do is give a little bit back," says Zayhab Abdullah.
Zaynab Abdullah says she is committed to her dream of working in government or politics.
Insaf Abdullah hopes to study international law, focusing the Middle East.
"We need new blood, we need new governments, we need new faces to advance these countries," says the mother.
The women agree their degrees aren't going anywhere. Nor is their relationship, grounded in love.