Central Value

Marshall Scholar Dina Eldawy married her undergraduate studies with extensive service in Syracuse’s resettled-refugee community.

Senior Dina Eldawy (right) at the North Side Learning Center, the nonprofit education center where Eldawy has placed much of her extracurricular emphasis while at Maxwell

As a Maxwell sophomore, Dina Eldawy began teaching English at the North Side Learning Center, a nonprofit that serves Syracuse’s community of resettled refugees. Her students were high school girls primarily from Somalia and Syria, and they and Eldawy quickly forged a special bond, especially because of their cultural and language connections. Eldawy was born in Saudi Arabia and grew up in Florida with her Egyptian parents speaking to her and her sister in Arabic and English.

“I started off with the girls speaking mostly in Arabic,” Eldawy recalls. “I transitioned to half Arabic and half English and so did they, and now we just speak in English together. They’re incredible girls. I just can’t imagine learning so quickly in a new country.”

Over the course of her undergraduate career, Eldawy’s involvement with the North Side Learning Center grew from simple tutoring to drafting an Action Plan, as part of her citizenship and civic engagement (CCE) major, that proposed hiring a Syracuse city school teacher to lead extra tutoring sessions focused on general reading comprehension. She also sought out opportunities to serve immigrant communities abroad, working with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon through the Learning for the Empowerment and Advancement of Palestinians (LEAP) Program; and with Bolivian and Peruvian immigrants in Chile, where she spent a semester abroad taking classes and teaching English through two nonprofits.

“I was raised with Islamic ideals of giving back and helping those in need.”
Dina Eldawy, Marshall Scholar

Eldawy’s accomplishments as a student have earned her an extraordinary string of honors, including Coronat and Remembrance scholarships from the University and a national Truman scholarship. And now Eldawy, who graduated this spring with a dual degree in international relations and CCE, is preparing to take her academic and community work to the next level. Earlier this year, she became the second Marshall Scholar in Syracuse University history, an award that will finance two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom.

What sets Eldawy apart, says Anne Mosher, faculty director of CCE, is her forward thinking and ability to see the bigger picture. “Many students volunteer at places because they want to help people in an immediate sense,” she says. “But really great students, like Dina, who want to continue making an impact after the specific volunteer experience is over, realize that for community organizations to fulfill their missions in the long term, they’ve got to have operating systems that work.”

Eldawy traces her interest in education and youth development back to high school in Pensacola, Florida, where she worked with a teen leadership institute to create reading comprehension games for kids in underserved elementary schools. In addition, she says, “I was raised with Islamic ideals of giving back and helping those in need. That was instilled in me as a central value of my identity.”

As a Marshall Scholar, Eldawy will complete two master’s programs — the first will be an MA in migration and global development at the University of Sussex. For her second year, she is considering an MA program in comparative and international education at Oxford.

Eldawy’s career plans “basically grow from multiple streams that have just continued since high school,” she says. “I want to work with refugees and with youth educational development.” As she discovered in Syracuse, to carry out that work most effectively there’s no substitute for direct experience in the community.

“It’s one thing to talk about development or refugee organizations, and it’s a completely different thing to actually be working with these organizations, seeing what kind of struggles they have or what kind of advantages they have,” she says. Post grad school, she adds, “I can imagine myself working directly in the Middle East to get more on-the-ground experience.”

By Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

This article appeared in the spring 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.