Humphrey Fellows engage Schreyer Scholars in global dialogue

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The globe is a symbol of discovery. In childhood, it is a toy that you spin, stopping your finger on all the places you dream of traveling. In college, it becomes less of a question of where, but rather how, as you look into study abroad programs that will immerse you in those cultures. Traveling even extends into adulthood, enriching professional careers, as the Humphrey Fellowship Program strives to do.

For Hoda El Mahdy, the acting manager for the Education and Scholarships Department at the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, a nonprofit organization prominent in scholarship management in Egypt, the Humphrey Fellowship was always an opportunity she was aware of, but she never considered it would be a reality.

Mahdy is one of the 11 fellows calling Penn State home for the 2017-18 academic year. Penn State is one of 13 participating universities nationwide that bring distinguished mid-career professionals from around the world to selected universities across the United States to pursue graduate-level study and engage in public service and leadership development.

“I never thought that I had one year to take off from work, but the right moment presented itself, and I have always wanted to come on the program,” Mahdy said. “The fact that it is a non-degree program gives it a feeling of freedom that you can design the program as you want to — you can be as committed as you want to, as busy as you want to be, and there is no pressure.”

The Annual Humphrey Fellows Dinner on Oct. 20 connected Mahdy and other Humphrey Fellows from around the globe with Schreyer Scholars living in the GLOBE, a special living option offered to students in the Schreyer Honors College. 

“It is interesting to meet the fellows, speak with them, and learn their stories,” said Maria Badanova, Schreyer Scholar and president of the GLOBE. “They are always so passionate to share, and I find that the most rewarding thing to be able to learn from people that are so excited to talk about their country and their professional field.

“Personally, what I find most valuable about this experience is working in the U.S. and being in contact with what are people doing here that is different than what I’m doing,” Mahdy said. 

In addition to the dinner, the event featured roundtable discussions between the fellows and Scholars, giving students the opportunity to ask questions about current global issues. 

“The students know what is actually happening and asked questions about the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight and all current issues, showing that they are aware of current issues, inequities, and things happening in small countries,” said Wee Hoe Tan, Humphrey Fellow from Malaysia. 

Mahdy expressed her surprise in the students’ questioning, which she noted arose from “personal curiosity and pure interest,” rather than thoughts that would have been read in an academic article or studied in class. 

“The way they posed their questions gave me a sense of how they viewed my country,” Mahdy said. “It’s also valuable to learn what other things people are curious about and what is on people’s minds.” 

While not all the fellows are from countries that appear in top headline news, Troy Carl, outreach coordinator for the Humphrey Fellows Program, said that you could that see the students and fellows were engaged in constructive conversation for both parties. 

“All of the fellows here have exceptional resumes and exceptional backgrounds,” Carl said. “We look for any kind of opportunities that will not only enrich them, but also enrich the community as well — places where they can give and take.”

Through the exchange of stories and international perspectives, the Humphrey Fellows Dinner allowed both Schreyer Scholars and Humphrey Fellows to extend beyond their personal dots on a map and bring the globe into full view.

Last Updated November 07, 2017