Pritzker grad Sumbul Siddiqui talks Cambridge mayorship, student debt


Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Sumbul Siddiqui (Pritzker School of Law ’14) was elected as the mayor for the City of Cambridge this past January.

Catherine Buchaniec, Design Editor

After graduating from the Pritzker School of Law in 2014, Sumbul Siddiqui returned to her hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts and embarked on a life of public service. This January, Siddiqui was elected as the mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, becoming the first Muslim mayor in the state.

Siddiqui, who is entering her second term on the Cambridge City Council, immigrated from Pakistan at the age of two. Raised in local affordable housing, Siddiqui went on to attend Brown University as an undergraduate student. The Daily spoke to Siddiqui about her recent mayoral recent election and the impact Northwestern continues to have on her career.

The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily: What are you hoping to change in Cambridge during your time as mayor?

Siddiqui: I’m working on a range of things, including moving the needle finally toward universal pre-K. We’re also trying to do a lot more with affordable housing and work on zoning reform that would allow for building 100 percent affordable housing in our neighborhoods.

Something that I just recently accomplished was pushing for halal food options in our schools. We have a Muslim holiday in Cambridge and we celebrate it but parents were coming up to me and saying that we have kids who are going hungry. It is still not going to be halal every day but it’s moving toward that direction.

The Daily: Cambridge’s population is predominantly white. How has your identity as the first Muslim mayor in Massachusetts impacted your leadership and the community you’re serving?

Siddiqui: I think that because of who I am, there’s just more people who feel like they can come to City Hall and think that they can come to city government for help. I always say that you can’t be what you can’t see, and I realized that while I’ve been in office, just the level of involvement people of color have shown, and want to show, is awesome. I’m able to connect with immigrants from all over and connect with the Muslim community.

The Daily: Earlier this year you gave an interview in which you told a reporter about discrimination that you faced when you first entered office. Has that continued since then?

Siddiqui: I think that it was just those headlines that were attracting people. I haven’t gotten any — I haven’t heard. I don’t even check the internet about it so if there are comments, I wouldn’t know.

The Daily: Do you have any advice for current undergraduate or graduate students looking to go into public service?

Siddiqui: I think it is important to talk to as many people as possible before you go into something, and for people who are going to grad school, I think it is important to get some financial aid if you can. Unfortunately, I think it does make a huge difference for folks.

Go to a school that gives you financial aid because that opens you up to more opportunities to do public service. It’s hard to do public service if you have student debt because monetarily, it’s obviously lucrative.

The Daily: What student debt do you still have?

Siddiqui: I have so many Pritzker student loans. It’s pretty sad — I’m never not going to pay those.

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