UIS Political Science Master’s Degree Graduate Salam Awad

Salam Awad at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem
Salam Awad at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?  Where did you go to school for your undergraduate degree and what was your major? 
I am an Arab-American.  My parents are from Palestine; however, I’ve lived in Washington State my entire life.  I attended Central Washington University, where I majored in Political Science.

What made you choose to pursue a Political Science Master’s Degree?
My Middle Eastern background has always made me especially interested in politics.  During my undergraduate studies I learned so much about governments, conflicts, human rights, and international law.  I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree in Political Science in order to gain more insight in this field and hopefully use my knowledge to come up with solutions and new ideas that can foster a better world. Political Science is a dynamic field that touches across all aspects of society.  Being able to use critical thinking abilities and other tools to analyze conflicts, laws, and other things that impact society is a skill set I want to have in order to work with NGOs, governments, and other organizations to come up with solutions to problems that societies all over the world are facing.

Why did you choose the online Political Science Master’s Degree Program at UIS?
After I finished my bachelor’s degree I really wanted to the flexibility to be able to travel.  I choose the online Political Science Master’s Degree because it gave me the ability to travel to the Middle East at my leisure while also not having to worry about putting my studies on hold.  It felt extremely productive because I did not have to choose between traveling or studying.  Having this option really motivated me and I felt like I was truly working towards my goals as an individual both in terms of experience and education.

What did you like best about the courses and faculty at UIS?
What I enjoyed most about the courses was that they really felt interactive.  When I logged onto to Blackboard it actually felt like I was going to class.  It was extremely similar to a class or campus setting. Each course had its own structure and each faculty member also had his or her own way of teaching, so it did not feel repetitive.   It was independent work, but then all professors offered feedback on all assignments or discussion boards, which was extremely helpful and reassured confidence in my work.

What did you like best about online courses?
Online courses offered me freedom and flexibility.  I went through the materials at my pace and I choose the time when I wanted to study.  Some days it was on quiet afternoons, and other days it was at 2:00 a.m. when I was too energetic to sleep.

Can you tell us about your thesis?
My thesis is about Black/Palestinian solidarity. I explored recent events in Ferguson and Baltimore and compared them to the Palestinian Territories and documented the ways in which Black and Palestinian activists are joining together in solidarity.  Writing a thesis is an experience I was eager to have, and I was able to do this as an online student.  I was actually able to work on my thesis while I was in Palestine.  My committee chair, Dr. Adriana Crocker, and I communicated weekly through email, and I checked in with her while I worked on my thesis.  I wrote the proposal, detailed my methodology and my goals for my research, and once it was approved, I began researching and doing fieldwork.  It was a great experience.  I was able to utilize all the information I learned and really be in control of my research.  The greatest part was that my level of independence was also met with the exact same level of support, and I had weekly email exchanges with my committee chair, Dr. Adriana Crocker.  It was an extremely productive experience!  I gained a lot in terms of research capabilities, but also in terms of thinking and analyzing at a graduate level.

What do you plan on doing next?
I definitely want to pursue a Ph.D. in the near future.  I also want to work in the Middle East with NGOs or government organizations to help foster positive development initiatives geared at encouraging education and empowering youth that have been impacted by war.

What advice would you give to future students?
Stay focused and use the new innovative tools out there today to achieve your goals.  I thought I would have to either postpone my travels or graduate school, and thankfully I didn’t have to postpone either.  It is really about what you want for yourself and what you are willing to do to achieve those goals. The resources are out there, so use them!