HARTFORD, CT, March 24, 2014 – “High achievers” is a huge understatement when it comes to describing Ghadeer Awwad’s family, which includes three brother and six sisters. Two of her brothers are lawyers, one is a banker and all of her siblings have advanced college degrees.
That said, Awwad is no slouch when it comes to education. The youngest of 10 siblings, she has a B.A. in English language and literature and a master’s degree in democracy and human rights from Birzeit University, the pre-eminent institution of higher learning in Palestine, which is her homeland. Now, she is seeking a second master’s degree so that she can return to Palestine and become a full-time lecturer in the university’s public administration and political science department, which is her goal.
Awwad’s parents – her father is now deceased – always stressed to their children the importance of education, not just as a means to achieve economic success but for the sake of acquiring knowledge and “widening their horizons.”
In a sense, that’s how Awwad ended up here at Trinity, a school that she knew almost nothing about when she was living and working in Palestine. She was, however, familiar with the Fulbright Scholarship Program, which is considered very rigorous and highly prestigious.
She applied to the competitive program in 2012 and learned late that year that she had been selected as a finalist. “It was like a big gift to me,” said Awwad, adding that she was allowed to apply to schools in four different states. A friend had told her about Trinity and she was subsequently accepted. “I couldn’t be happier to be at Trinity,” said Awwad, who has been here since January.
Awwad is a full-time graduate student in the Public Policy and Law Program and hopes to earn her degree in a year-and-a-half. She is taking two courses this semester while she adapts to the college, the Hartford area and American culture. A Muslim, Awwad has a small apartment in North Campus. She Skypes with her mother every day and stays in touch with her friends in Palestine to help avoid any feelings of homesickness.
Awwad’s professors and classmates have befriended her, inviting her for meals and showing her around. Upon her arrival, Awwad was “generously welcomed” by Trinity President James F. Jones, Jr., and Dean of Faculty Thomas Mitzel. She has also met with William Barnett, director of graduate studies; Adrienne Fulco, the director of the Public Policy and Law Program; and faculty members from other departments.
To the degree that she has been able, she has explored Hartford and West Hartford, using the campus shuttle bus to go to such places as the mall and Whole Foods market.
“I’m a very self-dependent person. I feel safe and love to experience American culture,” she said. Awwad visited New York City in January, went to Pittsburgh recently and hopes to get to Washington D.C., among other places.
Awwad’s background is no doubt unique among Trinity students. She received her B.A. at the age of 20 from Birzeit. Upon graduation, she did volunteer work in Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital of the State of Palestine. Shortly after, she taught elementary school in Ramallah for six months before moving to the Ministry of Education, where she did communication and translation work.
In 2007, a position opened up at Birzeit, where she was employed as an outreach officer and a part-time lecturer before coming to Trinity. At the same time, she studied for, and received, her master’s degree.
Considered a “liberal” university with about 10,000 students, Birzeit was a place where Awwad mixed with people from different cultures. “It formulated my character and taught me that education is something that I should never give up,” she said.
Indeed, since 2009, she has wanted to pursue a Ph.D. program and is on a waiting list for scholarships. However, she is extremely happy to be a Fulbright recipient and “to be part of such a wonderful program, one that can give what no other program can grant.”
When she returns, Awwad “hopes to contribute doing research and improving the governmental system. I want to serve the Palestinian people and improve their lives. I believe in serving the country and the young leaders of the future.”
“I have big dreams and I am looking to achieve great things in my country,” said Awwad. “I know I have to struggle and it will be a big challenge, but I believe my dreams will come true.”