Sense of community helps student from Sudan excel at WSU Tri-Cities

Headshot of Reem OsmanReem Osman, (’24 BS Comp. Sci.) a Sudanese American, born and raised in Saudi Arabia, moved to the United States to pursue higher education. She had one goal: to make the most of her college experience. Through her involvement in numerous clubs, leadership roles, and as a student worker, she did just that while also blazing a trail for her two younger sisters.

Reem’s journey with Washington State University Tri-Cities began in 2018 when she moved, by herself, from Saudi Arabia to Richland, Washington to live with her uncle, Mohamed Osman, who at that time was a professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Once settled, she attended Richland High School and joined the Running Start program at WSU Tri-Cities the following year, allowing her to take courses on campus and earn both high school and college credit.

Reem said her extroverted and adventurous spirit made it easy for her to be the first in her family to move to America on her own. Even still, living in Richland was a bit of a culture shock. She missed the presence of international students that she was accustomed to being around back home.

“At [Richland High School], most kids had grown up with each other and it was harder to make friends,” she said. As a Running Start student, she appreciated the mix of students at WSU Tri-Cities and how easy it was to meet new people.

A change in course from nursing to computer science

Since she was a child, Reem has loved helping people and wanted to become a doctor. While in the Running Start program, she started out pursuing a nursing degree until she took a computer science class to try something different.

Reem Osman presenting her toolbox project on a laptop to a community member. Behind her is a research poster.

Reem Osman presents her automated toolbox inventory control project at the SEAS Design Expo.

“I realized that biology required a lot of memorizations, which is not my strong suit, and as a visual, hands-on learner, I found that computer science was actually a better fit for me,” she recalled.

She also realized that working in computer science gave her the ability to not only solve problems but to go back and fix mistakes, which isn’t always possible in nursing. “Changing my major to computer science came as a shock to my family because my parents are primarily in the medical field and they all knew I wanted to be a nurse,” she said.

Connecting with the campus community

Her time at WSU Tri-Cities was filled with more than classes, labs, and study sessions. Reem’s extra-curricular activities included her appointments as a founding member, president, and vice president of the Black Student Union; president of the Coding Cougs club, vice president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers student branch, and WSU Tri-Cities TRIO Career Academy coordinator.

Reem Osman being handed a check and award by Evelyn Ostrom.

Reem Osman is awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Career in Leadership.

Reem’s involvement and excellence in academics earned her several awards, namely the WSU President’s awards for leadership and the Student Leader of the Year award in 2022; the Student Civic Leadership award in 2023; and the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Career in Leadership, the Women of Distinction student award and the Top Ten Senior for Campus Involvement award in 2024. In addition, she and her team won Best Capstone Project in the Computer Science and Electrical Engineering category and she has been on the President’s honor roll list since her freshman year. Each of these accomplishments have fulfilled her goal of making the most out of her time in college.

Following her lead

Ten months after Reem moved to Richland, she was joined by her mother and two younger sisters, Razan and Rawan. Her sisters are following the same educational path by enrolling in Running Start and continuing at WSU Tri-Cities. Razan, a junior at WSU Tri-Cities is studying civil engineering with an interest in how it intersects with the environment. Rawan, the youngest of the four sisters, will be a senior at Hanford High in the fall. Reem said having her sisters join her on campus was a full circle moment. “I loved seeing my sisters involved with me on campus; it felt like home knowing my true family was also there with me,” she said. “I didn’t think I would get to ever be in the same school as my youngest sister since she was 6 years younger but because of the Running Start program I got to see her around campus as a fellow student.”

A proactive mindset is the key to her success

Reem’s mindset has been instrumental in her journey in getting her to where she is today. She has learned the importance of being proactive in creating the change she wants to see, rather than relying on others to do it for her.

Reem Osman hugging her uncle Mohamed Osman at Commencement. They are both wearing regalia.

Reem Osman hugs her uncle Mohamed Osman at Commencement.

During her time at WSU Tri-Cities Reem said she appreciated the community of students. “Here, everyone has the same goal – to get an education. Students are coming from all different places so there is a real sense of community here,” she said.

As a graduate in computer science and mathematics, Reem wants to pursue a career as a front-end developer, where she can leverage her technical expertise to enhance user experiences and meet client needs. She is currently an intern at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is converting to a full-time employee and staying with the lab. As she progresses in her career, she aims to further develop her skills and serve as a mentor and leader for teams and projects.