Alumni Spotlight: Kulsum Malik

From Rebel Reader to Alumni Achiever: Kay Malik Overcomes Obstacles to Succeed

By Stephanie Edwards |   October 2010

Kulsum Malik , Alumnus

Kulsum (Kay) Malik was told as a girl that books would poison her mind, but she didn’t let that stop her from reading. Later as an adult, she encountered personal and financial struggles, but she didn’t let that stop her from graduating with a bachelor’s degree. She earned not only a degree in English, but also earned the prestigious University Continuing Education Association’s national award for Outstanding Non-Traditional Student of 2008. Kay says she owes it all to her professors at UMUC—Dr. Matthew Prineas and Dr. Gay Claiborne in particular. “Had I not had the guidance of such wonderful teachers, I’d probably never have come this far. UMUC provided me the opportunity to meet the challenges of an unconventional educational background, said Kay.

Her achievements did not come easy. Kay had to free herself from a troubled home life in order to fully concentrate on her education. Her struggles began early, as a girl in England. Even when her family forbade her from reading books, she continued to enjoy all the passion and magic of reading. “Rebel that I was, I got my hands on a few dog-eared books,” Kay recalls. “They would transport me to a place where words whispered that sacred word: freedom.”

Later, she was sent to Pakistan and quickly married off.  Many years and two children later, she convinced her husband that they should move to the United States. Once in the United States,  she began working as a teacher’s assistant at a local school and as a patient representative at a hospital. But because of marital problems, Kay filed for divorce and even went into hiding for six months. She was free from her former marital struggles, but had no financial support. Kay went from part-time student to educational superstar, receiving several scholarships to help pay her tuition.

While at UMUC, Kay maintained a 4.0 grade point average and made the National Dean’s List for seven consecutive years. To help finance her education, she earned numerous scholarships including the Montgomery County Public Schools Retiree Teachers’ Scholarship, the UMUC President’s Scholarship, and the University System of Maryland Women’s Studies Scholarship.

In addition to these educational achievements, Kay also served (and continues to serve) as student coordinator for UMUC’s online English major club, contributor and organizer to UMUC’s poetry reading series, and has been published in UMUC’s literary magazine, Constellation. She most recently was a member of the student panel at UMUC’s annual writing conference. She is also the president of UMUC’s English Honor’s society, the Sigma Tau Delta, Omega chapter and she also proudly works as a writing advisor for UMUC’s online writing center, the Effective Writing Center.

After graduating in 2007, she decided to share her love of books with new generations of readers. This year she will step into the classroom once again—this time as a high school English teacher. Kay notes, “I want to continue my love affair with books by showing our younger generation how the love of the written word kept me alive. I want to show them that they can achieve anything if they set their heart on it.”

Currently, in addition to teaching, Kay has begun taking graduate courses at UMUC and is mentoring five students through the UMUC Alumni Association. She takes on all of these exciting challenges on top of taking care of her kids, now teenagers. She proudly notes that they are two wonderful teenagers of whom she is very proud, and who can read to their hearts' content!

What’s next on Kay’s list? “After that, onwards to a PhD, an autobiography on the New York Times Bestseller List, and then, the world!”