Fulbright Scholarship Awarded
Jamie M. Eubanks
JSU News Bureau
JACKSONVILLE -- June 22, 2001 -- Few professors are awarded Fulbright Scholarships to study abroad. Recently one of Jacksonville State University's biology professors was awarded this honor. But for Dr. Safaa Al-Hamdani, this scholarship is the chance to perform research in his homeland and introduce his children to their culture.
The Fulbright Scholar Program is sponsored by the United States Department of State. This program sends faculty, students and other professionals to almost every country in the world. But competition for these scholarships is fierce.
For the past year, Dr. Al-Hamdani, associate professor of biology at JSU, has been preparing for this great opportunity. "The chance of an individual to be accepted is very small," comments Al-Hamdani.
He had to endure two evaluations, one by the Fulbright program in Washington, D.C. and one by the host country, Jordan.
Because Al-Hamdani's native country is Iraq, Dr. Bill Meehan, president of JSU, felt this was a special opportunity for the university and for diplomatic interaction between the countries. So in May, with the support of Meehan, Al-Hamdani traveled to Yarmouk University in North Jordan. There he presented two seminars.
They loved him. Almost immediately they began formulating the possibility of students traveling to Jordan to study and Jordanian students coming to JSU.
"I am working with Dr. John Ketterer to work out the details of this," says Al-Hamdani. "But this may take some time."
For now, a link between the universities has been made. In September, Al-Hamdani will travel to his homeland for the first time in 23 years. He will go to teach some courses and also to do some research.
"I will be studying the adaptation of certain plants to the desert conditions. And I will also introduce kudzu to the area." Al-Hamdani hopes to protect erosion in this desert area with the kudzu. He also hopes to introduce it as a feed for livestock.
Al-Hamdani says every class at the university is taught in English. And the president of Yarmouk is a graduate of Auburn University in Auburn, AL.
And Al-Hamdani is not going to Jordan alone. His wife and two of his daughters, ages 10 and 13, will be traveling with him. His oldest daughter will begin her first semester at JSU and won't be able to travel with the family. But she will visit during Christmas break.
He and his family will most likely stay in Amman, the capital of Jordan. "It is a very modern city with English schools." There he will enroll his children in some Arabic classes so that they may learn their native language.
And, in over 23 years, Al-Hamdani has not been able to see his relatives in the Middle East. He hopes to arrange a meeting between the two because this would be the first time his children would meet their ancestors.
As to the political situation among the countries, Al-Hamdani is very "peaceful." "Some Americans think the Middle East is hostile toward them. I think they like Americans and admire their accomplishments. Jordan is a peaceful place with no crime. The society there is very different from here."
Because of Dr. Al-Hamdani's accomplishments, he will study in his native land and his children will get to know where they come from. A unique and flourishing relationship between the universities and countries has begun. And students from Alabama may one day travel to Jordan to study and visit the immaculate Roman ruins.
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