Nadia AlHashimi, B.A. 2010, will walk in the footsteps of Jordanian women, reaching out to nomadic Bedouin groups and traveling through the northern Albanian mountains.
She arrived in September in Amman, Jordan, enrolling in an intensive Arabic language program at the Qasid Institute for Classical and Modern Standard Arabic. She's spending a year studying the lives and experiences of women in Jordan as a prestigious Fulbright Fellow.
"I hope to gain new ways of understanding so that when I return to a graduate program in the United States, I can help build a bridge of mutual understanding between cultures that have long stood on opposites sides of the expanse," AlHashimi said.
Her journey to Jordan was fueled through travel to Albania as an undergraduate.
"My interest in Albanian families began in 2008 on a Millsaps study abroad program led by Dr. Michael Galaty," she said. "The following year, I followed up my intensive literature research on an independent trip to Albania. For six weeks, I lived and worked in the Albanian mountains with families as they taught me about their lives. The classroom in Albania was a mobile classroom. I spent my days with women tending the garden, cooking, escorting the cow across the pass, and working next to them in both the household and in the fields."
AlHashimi, a resident of Franklinton, La., majored in sociology and anthropology. She completed an independent honors thesis in which she examined northern Albanian women's changing roles and experiences in the Shala Valley of northern Albania.
She presented a paper based on her honors research at the annual meeting of the Southern Anthropological Society in Savannah, Ga., in March, said Dr. Julian Murchison, Millsaps associate professor of anthropology. AlHashimi received the Frances and L.B. Jones Award in Anthropology presented to the outstanding anthropology major at Awards Day in April.
At Millsaps, she took part in the Ford Teaching Fellows Program designed to attract qualified students into college teaching by encouraging the development of a working relationship between a full-time faculty and an undergraduate student.
"With Dr. Julian Murchison as my mentor, I have been stretched and pulled in various directions as a student, teacher, colleague, and research companion," AlHashimi said. "The Ford Fellowship allowed me to attend multiple anthropological conferences in which I was introduced to other professionals and varying and sometimes conflicting perspectives in my area of study. The best parts of these conferences were listening and learning from conflicting theories and applications in the field and participating in collaboration to find a resolution with the opposing opinions in mind."
AlHashimi is among an estimated 1,600 students receiving a Fulbright Fellowship this year from the U.S. Department of State. The award offers recent graduates, postgraduate candidates, and developing professionals and artists opportunities to conduct study and research abroad. The Fulbright Program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by providing opportunities to study, teach, and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute solutions to shared international concerns.
AlHashimi is the first Arab-American woman from Mississippi to receive the fellowship and the second Millsaps student in three years to receive it. Chelsi West, B.A. 2008, received the honor in 2008. The fellowship funded her research and study in Albania, where she lived in the capital city of Tirana and took classes in social science and Albanian at the University of New York, Tirana.
Dr. David C. Davis, interim vice president and dean at Millsaps College, said AlHashimi's selection as a Fulbright Fellow speaks volumes about the type of student who excels at Millsaps and the supportive, collaborative relationship between students and faculty.
"Such recognition by the Fulbright Fellows program validates the quality of education provided here in Jackson, Mississippi, by Millsaps, a nationally ranked liberal-arts college," he said. "As one of (AlHashimi's) friends remarked, 'Researching Bedouin women and roaming the mountains of Thethi, Albania, completely on her own, studying isolated societies of women ... how many students have the opportunity and have chosen to do this? Millsaps provided this opportunity. Nadia took advantage of it.'"
AlHashimi is a gifted student of anthropology and will in years to come be an outstanding college professor, Galaty said."She is a natural ethnographer, quite able to approach people, put them at ease, and then work with them as anthropological informants. She brings a consistently high level of professionalism, curiosity, poise, and grace under pressure to all that she does," he said. "In going to Jordan, surely she will recapture some of her heritage as an American of Middle Eastern descent. I look forward to seeing the results of her research there with Jordanian women, Bedouin in particular."
AlHashimi will use her rich experiences as a springboard to the next chapter of her life.
"I hope that over this next year I will come back a better student so that I can continue this work in a graduate program and continue to cultivate my education," she said. "From Mississippi to desert sands ... Here I come!"