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Hazami Barmada ′07

Many people are puzzled to learn that I am British by birth, Syrian-Palestinian by nationality, Muslim by faith, and American by upbringing. It has been a challenge growing up in a swirl of cultures, languages, traditions and faiths. 

Because of my vast travel experience and overlapping titles, it took me awhile to establish my identity and understand the direction I envisioned my academic career taking me. Rhodes has given me a chance to explore these issues in a wide array of settings. I know now that I want to spend my life building a cross-cultural bridge of understanding and social exchange between the U.S. and the Middle East.

Initially, I transferred to Rhodes from Millsaps for the International Studies program, but I found so much more! Professor Carla Shirley introduced me to sociology, which I was able to explore as an academic discipline in a classroom setting. Doing so also widened my horizons to the outside world. She has worked with me on self-directed research projects that allowed me to explore my passionate desire to explain and reveal “the reality of my culture and religion,” as I tend to coin it.

We have examined the effects of media in perpetuating the marginalization and frequent misconception of the “othered” Arab and Muslim communities in America. I have been able to publish papers for scholarly journals and present my research at professional conferences, most recently at Emory University. I attended several leadership conferences, among them one at UC Berkley. I was able to apply my knowledge as an intern in Washington, DC, in the national headquarters and research institute of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

There has even been an opportunity to put my beliefs into practice. The Muslim Student Association, of which I was president last year, was founded to provide support for the Muslim students on campus. Last year we expanded it to include non-Muslims with hopes of advancing the understanding of Islam on campus and beyond the Rhodes gates.

I came here thinking I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my parents and study medicine, but Rhodes opened my eyes, ears and heart to my inner passion. I feel empowered and compelled to increase understanding between the two communities to which I belong. 

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