Egyptian online grad fulfills dream of master’s degree, makes trip to Arizona to celebrate with classmates

One of 190 graduating in spring ‘22 through support of Abdulla al Ghurair Foundation for Education

May 13, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Ahmed Radwan dreamed of earning a master’s degree at a reputable American university. But affording tuition posed a huge challenge, and the currency exchange rate did not favor him: One U.S. dollar was worth 18 times the value of the currency in his home country of Egypt. Ahmed Radwan, AGFE, scholar, Watts College, ASU, spring 2022 Ahmed Radwan. Photo courtesy Ahmed Radwan Download Full Image

“So here comes the dream maker, the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education (AGFE). I learned about the foundation through social media,” Radwan said.

Radwan is one of 190 online master’s degree students who graduated from Arizona State University this week whose education was generously supported by the Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based AGFE. He is one of only seven of those grads who made the trip to Arizona to participate in ASU's spring 2022 commencement exercises in person.

Radwan’s Master of Science degree from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions’ Interdisciplinary Programs is in program evaluation and data analytics.

“Being able to make it to the graduation ceremonies in person is something I was always looking forward to, because after all the hard work and effort I would love to get recognized for my achievement,” Radwan said. “It also allowed me to have the chance to tour the place that I have been studying at.”

Radwan, of Cairo, said he had to apply more than once before being accepted for a scholarship.

“I applied the first time for the spring 2019 cohort. I was shortlisted but I wasn't selected because of how competitive the (AGFE) program is,” he said. “But I didn't give up. I applied again for the fall 2020 cohort and I was shortlisted and then admitted into the program. Shortly after that, I received the acceptance letter from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.”

Since the first students in the AGFE Open Learning Scholars Program (OLSP) began their studies in fall 2021, the AGFE has supported high-achieving, disadvantaged Arab youth in completing online master's degrees online at ASU. The program, which concludes when its current cohort is expected to graduate by fall 2024, offered scholarships in more than 39 different degree specializations, spanning the fields of engineering, technology, health care, education, tourism, sustainability, business analytics, biomimicry and more.

AGFE, founded in 2015, “is one of the largest privately funded philanthropic education initiatives in the Arab world, devoted to equipping Arab youth with the knowledge and skills they need to become future leaders of the region,” according to a description on its LinkedIn page.

Currently 550 Open Learning Scholars have AGFE scholarships supporting their online studies at ASU, with 375 active students in class as of spring 2022. In spring 2022, 190 graduated, while 137 earned their degrees in fall 2021.

Students assisted by the foundation are of 19 nationalities from 23 countries. As of May 2022, AGFE had assisted 67,608 Arab youth through relationships with more than 45 partners worldwide, including ASU. Its target is to reach 200,000 Arab youth by 2025.

Read on to learn more about Radwan’s ASU journey, which this week took him from Cairo to Phoenix to celebrate his achievement in person with his classmates.

Question: Tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, and describe your educational attainment before you enrolled at ASU.

Answer: I am a husband and a father of one baby girl. I was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. I received my bachelor's degree in supply chain management and logistics in 2017 from the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport.

Q: Tell us about some of your expectations just before attending courses with Americans. What new things did you learn about life in the United States?

A: I have done some research about ASU before I started attending the courses, and I was happy that there is a huge, diverse community whether it is among students, staff or instructors. Attending courses with Americans was a great experience, as I never felt like an outsider. The inclusion and acceptance of other nationalities and cultures was always there. I have also learned a lot about life in the United States, such as how everything is run in the country, and also that most of the major decisions among governmental institutions are data-driven. One more thing I admire the most is that most of the non-confidential governmental institutions' data are public, which creates a sense of trust and transparency between the government and the people of the nation.

Q: What things do you believe Americans who were able to meet and get to know you learned about you and your culture?

A: My American classmates learned some information about me and my culture. From the nine hours’ time difference between Cairo and Arizona, to some of the Middle Eastern traditions and holidays. They learned more about the fasting month of Ramadan, our official holidays and the rich history that Egypt has.

Q: Talk about the most important things you learned from your degree program here at ASU.

A: I believe that working with data is the best thing anyone can do for their career. With all the technological revolution and digitalization that the world has been going through for the past decade, data science/analytics is one of the must-have skills for everyone to develop. In addition to acquiring a lot of knowledge, I was also able to maintain a 4.0 GPA, which for me was a great achievement after all the effort put into it.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plan after graduation is to pursue a career in data analytics/science. I believe that the knowledge I have acquired through my degree made me feel confident enough to apply for jobs in this field.

Q: If you met a student from your country considering coming to ASU, what advice would you give?

A: I would recommend ASU Online to all international students seeking a good quality education while still having the freedom to live anywhere in the world. The experience offers the combination of earning a degree that makes you actually learn something valuable with all the university’s support services, while having the flexibility of time and place. This is really a rare find.

Q: What impressed you about Arizona?

A: My time in Arizona was great. I got to see how the weather and the nature is close to how it is in Egypt. The temperature is almost the same and the desert land as well. I have also been to the ASU campus and stadium and I didn’t think (the campus) is that huge ... I have been also to the Grand Canyon and couple of other cities like Flagstaff and Sedona. My overall experience is that Arizona has some of the best scenery I have ever seen seen in my life. I would definitely come back to visit if I get the chance to.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


History graduate explores interests in communication, political science

May 13, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Alejandro Hernandez’s passion for history goes as far back as his childhood, when he watched the Indiana Jones movies and the History Channel. His interest in history was further explored and encouraged in high school. Alejandro Hernandez, who graduated from New College with a bachelor’s degree in history with minors in communication and political science this spring, poses with his family. Download Full Image

“In high school I had two great teachers who pushed me to continue my interest in history,” Hernandez said. “One of the great things about history is that it gives you a blueprint of how things happened back then, but also how things might go in a certain direction.”

After high school, first-generation student Hernandez toured ASU’s campuses around the Valley, but found himself drawn to the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on the West campus.

“I was just amazed at first at … how peaceful it was,” he said. “I can actually hear the birds chirp and that surprised me. I even told my mom about it and I said ‘I can get used to this!’ Ever since then I just stuck here at New College.” 

During his time at New College, he said he was able to learn new perspectives through the diversity he found among the student body.

“So many different people are coming here from so many different places. There’s a lot of people from California, there's a lot of people from international places, there's people coming from other parts of the U.S.,” he said. “Getting to know them kind of gave me a new lens or perspective so I may see things differently.”

This spring, Hernandez graduated from New College with a bachelor’s degree in history with minors in communication and political science. Here, he shares more about his experiences at ASU and what’s next for him.

Question: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

Answer: I have so many professors that were great here but I would say Jay Taylor. I had him for a Kindness and Interpersonal Relationships class and also a Forgiveness and Reconciliation class. It was very philosophical but also more like an actual conversation about what these terms mean. Coming from a Hispanic family I was raised to believe that it's black and white — there's a wrong, there's a right — that's it there's no middle ground. But I learned a lot when it comes to forgiveness and kindness. As people we have so many capabilities that are yet to be discovered. By learning to apply my knowledge on forgiveness I feel like I’ve been able to help my family out a lot and right now they're doing a little better emotionally.

Q: What was your favorite place or spot on the West campus for studying or meeting friends?

A: My two favorite spots are the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and the Fletcher Library. The gym is the most must "to do" thing for me, so going there is a good way to de-stress and it's a good way to talk to people. A lot of people here on the West campus go to the gym at some point so you get to see people from class. It's a good way to come together to work out but also to talk and catch up with people. Fletcher library is a very quiet place for me. I'll go to the computer and do all my work, whether it's reading chapters for class, preparing for a speech or working on an assignment.

Q: What's the best piece of advice you would give to someone still in school?

A: Break everything down for yourself. I know we're so accustomed to trying to figure out everything at once, but just like with anything there's a process. Within that process, you want to break things down and try to slow things down for yourself. The slower things are for you the more manageable it will be. I would also say try to befriend the upperclassmen. Those upperclassmen will give you great advice and tell you about their experiences so you can learn from them.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation I'm considering going to graduate school for social justice. As a first-generation student it's a new process for me so it's going to take time but I'm definitely considering it. I also want to continue my internship that I currently am a part of with Public Allies Arizona.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years or more?

A: Hopefully I'll either be a historian or working in the government. I feel like being part of the local government is a way for me to remind myself of my roots because originally I'm from Los Angeles, California, more specifically the Florence area, which is predominantly a low-income Hispanic and Latino community. It has a history of gang violence and drugs. Working with the government would be my way of reminding myself I am a product of that and helping out as many people as I can.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences