Karim receives scholarship award

Zayn Karim, an undergraduate student studying secondary math education with a license addition to teach computer science, has been awarded the Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis Scholarship from Indiana University.

As a Black Muslim female student (and the daughter of an immigrant), there are many times when I was in spaces where there was no one else who looked like me or could relate to my experiences. There have been many times when others have openly doubted my abilities, and when you're doubted so often I think it's natural to eventually start doubting yourself too sometimes,” Karim said. “So when I received the award, my first reaction was shock (almost like disbelief), which was then followed by an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I was super happy and humbled to be honored with such a notable campus-wide award.”

When she was a freshman at IU, Karim first learned about imposter syndrome from a Women in Math Club talk and realized she had experienced it. She recalled walking into her first math class at IU and already feeling like she was less intelligent and less capable than everyone else. Karim nearly switched to a lower level class, but ended up excelling through her hard work and dedication: “It goes to show the extent to which I’ve doubted myself, right from the very beginning of my journey at IU, when — in reality — I was capable of more than I thought.”

I hope that by receiving [this award] I might be able to inspire someone else in some way. I want people to know that you don’t have to “fit the mold” to achieve something great.

Zayn Karim

“For women and (others of) racial or ethnic minorities, I think that lack of representation is one of the biggest contributors to imposter syndrome,” Karim added.

During reception for the Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis Scholarship, Karim looked around the Georgian Room where the event was being held and noticed the pictures hanging on the wall all around the room. One picture immediately stood out to her: a picture of Dóminique Kemp. In 2021, Kemp became the first Black student to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics at Indiana University, despite the fact that IU's Math Department has been around for over 100 years.

“It’s not because other Black students before him didn’t have what it takes or that other Black students before him didn’t have the potential,” Karim said. “Rather, it’s because there are many societal issues with equitable access, plus the devastating lack of representation makes people believe that they don’t deserve to be in these spaces. Seeing Dr. Kemp’s picture in that room, I reflected on how there are so many barriers that still need to be broken down. I looked at Annie Abioye, the other recipient of the scholarship, and I, two Black women who are leaving a mark at IU, and I hoped that we were doing just that: breaking down barriers. And breaking down barriers isn’t something that happens just when you win an award or scholarship, it’s something that can be done on a daily basis. It’s something that I’m constantly trying to do, to pave a way for myself and others.”

“I am grateful to be recognized with this award,” she added “I hope that, by receiving it, I might be able to inspire someone else in some way. I want people to know that you don’t have to “fit the mold” to achieve something great. And I want people to know that it’s natural to doubt yourself sometimes, but don’t let self-doubt stand in the way of achieving your goals — even when you have doubts, always continue to work hard and never give up.”

Named in honor of University Chancellor Emeritus Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis, this scholarship is awarded each spring to an IU Bloomington student who demonstrates academic excellence, leadership in student activities, and a distinguished record of service as a good university citizen.