When her term begins in January, Ghazala Hashmi will become Virginia’s first Muslim state Senator. Unseating Republican incumbent Glen Sturtevant, Hashmi will represent the state’s 10th district in the Virginia Senate.

There have been several excellent profiles on Hashmi in the wake of her historic win. Here are a few of the most interesting things we learned:

  • Hashmi says she felt compelled to run for office due to Trump’s xenophobic policies. Hashmi was driving to work in 2017 when she first heard about President Trump’s decision to ban refugees from certain predominantly-Muslim countries. Initially frozen with terror, she made up her mind to get involved. “I could continue to be quiet and accept things,” she said. “Or I really had to become much more visible.”
  • Dr. Hashmi holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University and  received her PhD in English from Emory University. Her thesis was on the poet William Carlos Williams.
  • Hashmi served as a literature professor and academic administrator for 25 years within Virginia’s community college system. She served as the founding Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, where she received the Reynolds Multicultural Enrichment Award.
  • Dr. Hashmi immigrated from the Indian city of Hyderabad with her family to a rural town Georgia at the age of four. She says the experience shaped her view of the world and how “community building and open dialogue can bridge cultural and socioeconomic divisions.” In 1991, she moved to Virginia with her husband. 
  • Despite being inspired to run by national issues, Hashmi says she is focused on working on subjects that directly impact Virginians most. “I know there was an undercurrent of people feeling very disenfranchised, and also distressed over national-level politics,”  she said. “But what I heard the most when I was talking to voters at their doors and speaking to so many folks in the community is that they really wanted a Virginia assembly that focuses on the issues that matter to them.” 
  • In addition to being the first Muslim state Senator, Hashmi is also set to be the first Muslim woman to serve in the Virginia General Assembly.