|Ali Awad, right, poses with his 11-month-old daughter, Emma, and NIU President Doug Baker on graduation day.|
Long before he crossed a stage in DeKalb wearing a cap and gown, new graduate Ali Awad was a young man with big dreams in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Awad graduated from NIU on May 13 with a B.S. in technology, with an emphasis in applied manufacturing technology. The dean’s list student said he was inspired by Michael Moore’s movie “Where to Invade Next,” in which the filmmaker traveled the world looking for positive ideas to introduce to American culture.
“This is exactly what I’m planning to do,” he said. “I want to take the great experiences I learned from America and implement them back home to improve my country.”
His dream led him on a 7,000-mile journey from his home on the coast of the Red Sea to Northern Illinois University. With little English and a family to care for, Awad had no shortage of challenges. His wife and his daughter, Emma, kept him motivated. On graduation day, 11-month-old Emma was clad in her own tiny cap and gown as her father accepted his degree.
“It was hard for me to keep up with school work and work part time while having a wife and a little baby,” he said. “However, my wife and my baby, Emma, were my motivation to do what I achieved.”
Awad thought it would be hard to engage with other students and faculty because of the language barrier, but he challenged himself by applying for a job at the Campus Recreation Center, where he eventually became a supervisor. One of the projects Awad recalls most proudly was finding ways female Muslims and other female students who prefer to work out only with women could feel more comfortable using the Chick Evans Field House. His team’s suggestions are being considered for the upcoming semester.
The memories and friendships Awad made at Northern Illinois University are unforgettable, and the skills and knowledge he gained through the excellent technology program will serve him throughout his career.
“I just want to thank Northern Illinois University and its faculty and staff for everything they’ve done for me, ” he said.