New scholarship to support grad students from Middle East and North Africa
students gather on the staircase in front of Rackham
students gather on the staircase in front of Rackham

New scholarship to support grad students from Middle East and North Africa

By Eric Gallippo

Hamed Alajlan (BSEIO ’78) fondly recalls his time on campus in Ann Arbor in the 1970s. Then a Kuwaiti transfer student from the American University in Beirut, Alajlan switched from pre-med to engineering at Michigan, where his curiosity extended beyond his degree work—and the classroom. His love for the humanities and social sciences sent him combing through used book shops, holding long conversations in cafes, and taking study breaks to read poetry on the fourth floor of Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library.

“It’s not only the courses, but the intellectual atmosphere that surrounds Ann Arbor,” Alajlan said.

Today, he hopes to offer like-minded graduate students from his home region the same opportunity with the recent creation of a new Arab Alumni Scholarship Fund. After making and securing initial gifts to start the fund, Alajlan is working to help build more support for his vision of aiding graduate students from Middle East and North African countries.

The scholarship will be awarded to a current master’s student in the Rackham Graduate School who has earned an undergraduate degree from one of 22 countries in the region and has shown perseverance overcoming hardships, including financial circumstances. Candidates with a science background and scholarly interest in the social sciences and humanities will receive additional consideration.

For Alajlan, who went on to earn his Ph.D. in economics after his time at Michigan, social sciences are important not only personally, but because he believes they lend themselves to strategic, big-picture thinking. He’s inspired today by the work being done at U-M’s Institute for Social Research.

“People confuse strategy with a plan, with vision, with goals, but strategic study requires multidisciplinary programs,” he said. “If you study only engineering, for example, and you want to develop a strategy, that’s not always enough. It helps if you also study things like history, literature, and philosophy as well.”

The scholarship also bolsters U-M’s efforts to support exceptional international students from the Middle East and North Africa as part of its robust community of international learners.

“Rackham Graduate School, like our university as a whole, is made stronger because we attract outstanding students from all over the world,” said Rackham Dean Mike Solomon. “I’m delighted that this new fund will help more students come to U-M to further their goals as they enrich the university community through their perspectives, scholarship, and research.”

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