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Staff Spotlight: Wijdan Tawfiq

May 14, 2019

Here at Rec Services, we are very lucky to have a wonderful student staff who come into the program and truly make a difference with their presence. In our next couple blog posts, we want to spotlight just a few of our amazing instructors that make our program fun, interesting, and diverse! 

Wijdan Tawfiq was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. Growing up, she had a passion for fitness but she lived in a culture where exercise conflicted with femininity and modesty. Female students were not given the opportunity to get a physical education or play sports. Eventually, Wijdan graduated with a bachelor’s degree from King Abdulaziz University and was granted a scholarship opportunity to finish her higher education abroad. In the following years, she obtained her Master’s degree from Colorado State University and made her way over to Iowa State in 2014 for her Ph.D.

Being a Ph.D. student wasn’t her only responsibility. Wijdan is a wife and a mother to two little boys. Being a student, a wife, and a mother all at the same time was very overwhelming, so fitness was the last priority for Wijdan. However, she noticed that her body was not happy and she felt tired all the time so she tried to fit some workouts into her schedule. The group fitness classes here at Iowa State were perfect for her. The ease of having someone else plan the workout and make it fun was just what she was looking for. She left each class with plenty of energy and happiness.

Wijdan started to consider registering for the fitness instructor training program at Rec Services. She had a small voice in her head telling her she couldn’t do it, she was already too overwhelmed. But with some encouragement from our Fitness Class Coordinator, Ashley Artist, she gained the willpower and confidence to register. She went on to complete the Learn to Teach training and she got her ACE certification. She also had some amazing support from her family. She recalls a moment from a few days before her training where her husband and sons accompanied her to State gym to watch her practice. They told her she would be the best group fit instructor. Now, as a group fitness instructor, she is encouraging other students who grew up in similar cultures to join different fitness classes at Recreation Services with her. One of her professional goals is to make an impact on fixing the misconception about female fitness and encourage others to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.

Wijdan has been teaching at Rec Services for a semester now and we are so happy she didn’t listen to that voice in her head! She enjoys every class she teaches with loads of enthusiasm. She loves the feeling of making an impact on others and encouraging them to be active. Her favorite part about being a group fit instructor is seeing everyone work hard together with so much energy and positivity.

As a result of her love for fitness and teaching, Wijdan has voluntarily lead different kinds of group fitness classes weekly with a group of Muslim women for the past year. They reserve a community clubhouse because most of the women feel intimidated going to the gym. It gives her so much pleasure watching more and more people join the class.

Two semesters before her graduation, she started to question what she would do when she got back to Saudi Arabia after graduating. She hated the idea of seeing herself not exercising back home. So she thought the fitness Instructor training program would be a great opportunity for her to take the lead and start fitness classes for female students at King Abdulaziz University back home.

After graduation from Iowa State, Wijdan will accept an assistant professor position at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Her future professional goals are centered on her role as a future educator at the University. This University is gender segregated, and currently, there is no gym for female students. She plans on working with the decision makers in the University to organize group fitness classes, and possibly a gym, for female students.

We are so incredibly proud of Wijdan and what she has accomplished. We can’t wait to see where her future takes her!