University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Editor's Note

An Eye on the World

Photo credit: Scott Streble

IF YOU COULD do anything in the world, what would you do? 

That question is one of the great conundrums of life. 

Tons of inspirational quotes and “strive for success” posters enthuse about finding our passion and pursuing it. Visionaries from all walks of life talk about finding a problem to solve or a question to answer or a need that’s currently going unmet.

In many respects, that query also serves as a starting point for any student entering a university or college. Exploring arenas of untapped possibility through study, research, and access to expertise helps us define a vocation and what we may want to do with a good portion of our working life.

In this issue of Minnesota Alumni, we look at several University of Minnesota graduates who are making an impact on the world in a wide variety of ways, both globally and closer to home.

For instance, Nayera Adly Husseiny (M.D.P. ’19) found herself troubled by the political upheaval in her homeland of Egypt, and decided she wanted to find a way to level the playing field between the ‘have’s’ and ‘have not’s’ in her community.

Gilles Amadou Ouegraogo (M.D.P. ’13) saw the challenges facing the Sahel in Africa, an area of semi-arid land bordering the Sahara Desert. Today he is working with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the Great Green Wall Accelerator to help stop the growing dessication of this region and the economic plight it is causing.

Likewise, the late Law School Professor David Weissbrodt and the Human Rights Center he founded at the U of M in 1988 helped steer the careers of several staff members of the local nonprofit The Advocates for Human Rights. Today these graduates are helping address offenses in regions that range from Ukraine to Croatia and far beyond.

And the passions that propel U of M graduates occasionally have a narrower focus, but not a smaller impact in the world.

Consider David Scheel (M.S. ’86, Ph.D. ’92), one of the world’s leading scholars on octopuses. He’s spent the past 30 years studying these fascinating if misunderstood creatures. Scheel was also the subject of a BBC/PBS documentary in recent years that examined his work with an eight-legged lodger, Heidi, who lived in an aquarium in his living room. While Scheel studied her, he insists the octopus was also studying him. His work has benefitted the world by letting us understand much more about this mysterious lifeform, which may unlock other insights in the future.

Kelly O’Hara Dyer can be reached at

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