UT Dallas Fulbright Winner is Headed to Egypt to Study Women’s Rights and Arabic Language
Jun. 7, 2010
Samia Hossain, a spring 2010 graduate of The University of Texas at Dallas, wants to improve the lives of women in Muslim countries.
For her, immersion in the culture and language of the Middle East is a necessary first step. To that end, the then-international political economy major applied for a nine-month award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Program Honors Top Scholars,
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program offers fellowships to graduate students and graduating seniors to study in more than 155 countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education and athletics. Forty Fulbright alumni from 11 countries have been awarded the Nobel Prize, and 75 alumni have received Pulitzer Prizes.
By the end of May, Hossain’s friends in Jordan had received news of their own Fulbright awards, so Hossain knew the decision notice would be coming soon from the U.S. State Department-sponsored program.
“We’re happy to inform you …” Hossain read between her fingers, her hands covering her eyes, as she nervously checked her email at 6 a.m. on May 26. She hadn’t slept at all the previous night, but mustered energy to share the celebration-worthy news of her selection with her mother during the early morning hours.
The Lewisville High School graduate will use her Fulbright grant to study language and literature at the American University of Cairo’s Arabic Language Institute. Her award is one of only two Fulbright grants for language study offered by the Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt this year.
She also won a Critical Language Enhancement Award to continue her Arabic studies with private tutoring from Arabeya Arabic Language Center in Cairo for three months following her Fulbright-supported studies. The Enhancement Award, like the Fulbright is sponsored by the State Department, and provides three to six months of intensive language study to successful Fulbright applicants studying in selected countries.
Fluency in Arabic will help Hossain promote the rights and status of women in the Muslim world through economic development and legal reform. Her interest in the issues intensified during the 2008 U.S. presidential election, with its increased focus on international issues, and while taking courses at UT Dallas like Global Politics.
The interest became a passion, and during her sophomore year Hossain switched majors from neuroscience to international political economy.
She used various scholarship and internship programs to deepen her understanding of women’s rights issues in the Muslim world. Hossain studied development and governance in Malaysia, and conducted microfinance research with the Grameen Technology Center in Seattle, Wash. She spent spring 2009 working in Washington, D.C., as a Bill Archer Fellow at the World Bank. She then won a State Department Critical Language Scholarship and studied Arabic in Jordan during summer 2009.
“Samia has developed a unique set of intellectual skills and practical experiences that will permit her to grapple with the legal and economic impediments to women’s rights in the Muslim world,” said Dr. Douglas C. Dow, associate director of the University’s Collegium V honors program.
The Fulbright grant comes at a pivotal time for Hossain. She has been accepted to pursue her law degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and received permission to defer for a year.
“This is exactly what I wanted to do this year – travel, learn Arabic, develop professional contacts in Egypt and grow as a person,” she said. “The Fulbright provides me with a springboard to law school, where I plan to study international law and humanitarian issues in the Muslim world.”
She is the daughter of S.M. Showkat and Mahmuda Hossain of Parker, Texas. Hossain, who attended UT Dallas as a McDermott Scholar, graduated in spring 2010 magna cum laude with a bachelor's in international political economy from the University’s School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.
“Samia exemplifies the best UT Dallas has to offer Texas and the world. Her academic career reflects the ever-expanding opportunities now available to our world-class undergraduates,” said Dr. Edward J. Harpham, associate provost at UT Dallas.
She has received much support from the UT Dallas community in general, but noted particularly positive influences from the Office of Undergraduate Education.
“Dr. Dow and Dr. Harpham encouraged me to apply for scholarships like the Truman and Fulbright, and worked countless hours with me editing my applications and writing my letters of recommendation,” she said.
Hossain is the second UT Dallas undergraduate student to receive a Fulbright award. Rachel Markowitz became the first UT Dallas student awardee in 2008. The political science major received the award to study the influence of Western dispute resolution methods on Moroccan tribal cultures.
Hossain urges any student interested in the scholarship to apply.
“It’s a great opportunity after graduation,” she says. “It’s a way to create a cultural exchange between America and the people of another country.”
Samia Hossain's award is one of only two Fulbright grants for language study offered by the Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt this year.
UT Dallas Post-Grad Scholarships
David L. Boren Fellowship
Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Fellowship Program
Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship
National Institutes of Health / Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Award
Leonard M. Reiser Fellowship
State Department/Council of American Oversees Research Centers Critical Language Scholarship
Harry S. Truman Scholarship
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UT Dallas offers assistance to students interested in applying for presitigous scholarships such as these, to help ensure a good scholar-to-scholarship “fit.” Students interested in learning more about a Fulbright or other distinguished scholarship should contact Dr. Douglas Dow by email or at 972-883-4934.
*Source: Office of Undergraduate Education