Photo By Hillary Ehlen
You can take one look inside the Minnesota State University Moorhead track & field record book and be impressed by Nadir Yusuf. He currently holds the school’s record for the 10,000-meter run. Yusuf also captured the NSIC crown in the 5,000-meter last season too. Those two marks are wildly impressive regardless of where you go to school and Yusuf still has another year of eligibility to capture more records.
Those are things that define Nadir Yusuf on a surface level. He is a great runner, yes, but he is far more than that to the Fargo-Moorhead community and MSUM.
Yusuf and his family immigrated to the United States from Somalia 13 years ago. While their original destination was Virginia, the family moved to Willmar, Minnesota, shortly after arriving in America.
“Our original destination was Roanoke, Virginia. My mom ended up getting in touch with some of my aunts who lived in Downtown Willmar so then we came by coach bus,” he said. “We were just wearing shorts and short sleeve shirts and all of a sudden we get off the bus and it’s white, snowy and cold. It was a huge shock.”
While in Willmar, Yusuf became one of the top distance runners in the state of Minnesota. By the time he graduated, he was a four-time state qualifier, four-time all-conference and two-time all-state. That caught the eye of the coaching staff in Moorhead and they wanted Yusuf to become a Dragon.
However, there were more reasons than just running that brought Yusuf to MSUM. Having come to the United States not knowing any English, he wanted to help immigrants in the school system.
“I came here to the United States 13 years ago not knowing how to speak. I couldn’t even write my own name when I came here,” Yusuf said. “Going through the ELO program in Willmar, that opened up the door to become a teacher and then try to help students who are immigrants learn and give them a better experience.”
While he did not stay in the ESL program on campus and has since switched his major to business administration, Yusuf is still dedicated to helping those who immigrate to the United States. Despite the shake-up in major, Yusuf immediately fell in love with MSUM and the people who make the campus what it is.
“The faculty members are so great and the coaches and the administration all want the best for the students. If you know one person, that person will connect you to another person and get you involved somewhere else on campus,” he said. “It’s all about guiding students and helping them where they want to go.”
Yusuf has become very connected at MSUM’s as his time on campus has gone along. Not only is he a student-athlete, but he also is the President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. This committee volunteers throughout the community, holds professional development events and much more for MSUM student-athletes. For Yusuf, it’s being able to see change take place that is most rewarding about being the President of SAAC.
He also aids in the Dragon GO! Team. This in-house marketing and production team promotes all things Dragon athletics. From broadcasting games to in-game events, GO! Team does it all.
Yusuf is a Dragon Ambassador as well. The Dragon Ambassador is one of the most important points of contact for incoming and prospective students. They give tours, help with class selection, introduce students to faculty and staff and more. Yusuf takes a tremendous amount of pride in this task. He knows he is the first MSUM representative for many students and must represent the school well.
“The moment a student comes on campus, I’m the first face that they see. Before they get to their faculty meeting or their admissions representative, I’m that first resource that they get to see and interact with,” he said. “It’s really nice being that first face, showing students around and sharing my experience.”
Yusuf also joined the Dragon Leadership Program. This organization provides students the opportunity to develop and practice leadership skills in several different settings. Students graduate from the Dragon Leadership Program after multiple years in the organization.
So how does Yusuf do all of this? Being a student is a full-time job, add to that being a student-athlete which is also a full-time job. Yusuf is grateful for those fellow leaders on MSUM’s campus that can step in for him if he needs the assistance or cannot make an event. Yet, he tries to do everything he can within the parameters of his schedule.
When asked why he enjoys Fargo-Moorhead so much, Yusuf shares the sentiments of many. It’s the people. “Everybody is very welcoming whether it’s holding the door for someone at Walmart or ALDI, they’ll say thank you and someone will hold the door open for me,” he said. “You can go to a big town like the Twin Cities, you’re going to walk past people and not make eye contact, smile or say hi. This community is very small and close-knit and are able to communicate with you. It’s a community that will keep on growing forever.”
Sure, Nadir Yusuf’s running accomplishments at MSUM are impressive. Those marks do not tell the entire story, though. Beyond what he does on the track, he is making an immediate impact on future generations of Dragons as well as our community at large.