Sabina Ashurova (AB ’22, MS ’22) made the most of her scholarship

Sabina Ashurova

Written by Jill Hamilton

When she arrived in the United States from Uzbekistan as an 8-year-old, Sabina Ashurova (AB ’22, MS ’22) learned to be resilient.

“It was a pretty hefty challenge,” said Ashurova, who emigrated with her mother in search of the American dream. “I carried a little English-to-Russian dictionary with me for the first month of school because I could not speak a lick of English.” Her mother, a health care professional whose credentials didn’t transfer to the U.S., worked hard to provide for them.

It was during this time that Ashurova first realized the power of people lifting each other up. “I vividly remember my classmates helping me out with assignments and trying to translate for me,” she said. It’s a lesson she’s carrying forward in her life.

During her tenure at the University of Georgia, she was a high achiever, earning an A.B. in Economics with a certificate in Personal and Organizational Leadership and a Master’s degree in Business Analytics, graduating in May 2022. She was a member of the Honors College, Blue Key Honor Society, and named Alumni Board Student of the Year by the UGA Terry College of Business.

A lot of this was possible due to the Georgia Commitment Scholarship program. It was a rare opportunity to not have to be quite so resilient. “It alleviated a huge financial burden for me and gave me the opportunity to spend time on things I truly cared about,” she said. “All of the things that I was able to do on campus—from starting initiatives to being part of organizations and leading teams—wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for that generous financial support.”

Perhaps her most lasting legacy at the school was co-founding the SGA Professional Closet. As a freshman in a First Year Senate program within the Student Government Association (SGA), Ashurova found herself as the go-to person for classmates looking for professional clothing to wear to events.

“My friends had friends who needed professional clothing, and I had some dresses and skirts and pants from high school. I started having people I didn’t even know come into my tiny little dorm room freshman year and borrow my clothing,” she said. As a member of the SGA, she took the issue on. “There was clearly a problem. People didn’t have professional clothing, and they couldn’t spend hundreds of dollars getting it—they just got to college.”

After a year of work, her team opened a physical space on campus—one that, thankfully, was not her dorm room. Since then, the Professional Clothing Closet has served over 500 students, with thousands of articles of donated clothing and over $30,000 in grants and donations.

The closet is doing even more than getting students into professional garb: It’s also become a way for students to use their particular talents to further the cause. “Tons of organizations across campus engaged with helping us and in getting students real experience, and it really helped make it a success,” she said. For example, students in the business school consulted on an inventory system and fashion design groups helped assemble and tailor outfits.

Ashurova now works as a data scientist at Cisco in San Francisco, where she built connections through an internship completed in the summer of 2021. “I really enjoyed the company culture,” she said. During that internship, she was able to join Cisco’s “AI for Good” initiative, where her team helped a nonprofit build a more accurate prediction model to better address food insecurity. “I was able to pursue an issue I very much cared about in addition to doing my day-to-day job.”

In the future, she’s planning to pursue opportunities within the intersection of technology, policy, and entrepreneurship, in part inspired by her time with UGA’s Kickstart Fund, where her team distributed grants to help scale student ventures. Now, her focus is not only working on these technologies but also protecting those who will use them. “There’s so much changing and being created within the technology realm, so there’s a lot to do and a lot to learn. I’m hoping to be able to contribute something beneficial for society through my work in this space,” she said.

No matter where she goes from here, helping others through her life and work will be a big part of what she does. “Seeing others lend their support, their advice and even their things over the years has made me want to be able to do the same. I know I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the help of others,” she said.