Dina and Eman
Demonstrating Leadership at the Walker School
Eman Fahmy and Dina Sallam are two excelling graduate MBA students from the Walker School of Business & Technology, months away from graduation. They are also representatives of a group of twelve promising Egyptian women leaders studying at Webster University in St. Louis because of a scholarship from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program, Higher Education Initiative(HEI).
Admittance and Background
Fahmy and Sallam both received their undergraduate degrees in Cairo, Egypt, where they had wonderful experiences, but wanted to further their education. Fahmy wanted to do so in the U.S., “[Fahmy] even prayed about it.” She believed that the United States education system was the best across the globe, bringing leaders who will make decisions for our world in the future. She knew she had to be a part of it.
Fahmy and Sallam learned of the HEI scholarship opportunity through a Facebook post. Fahmy realized she fit the requirements and applied immediately. Sallam said she was working full time when she discovered the opportunity, just days before the application ended.
After a rigorous application process, including three interview rounds with thousands of applicants, Fahmy and Sallam were selected for the HEI program.
HEI, sponsored by the U.S. government, has two different cohorts: STEM for undergraduates and STEP for a Masters of Business Administration. The recipients are, as Fahmy describes, “girls that showed ambition and natural leadership abilities.” They must also prove financial need, maintain good grades, and keep up with an immense amount of documents, as well as take pre-departure classes on the GMAT and U.S. culture. Finally, the women must also commit to returning to Egypt upon graduation to exercise their skills and leadership in their chosen industries.
Moving to America
Sallam has been surrounded by the motto “yes we can.” It was the motto of the company she previously worked at, and that of the presidential administration that initiated the scholarship. When it was time to move to St. Louis, she was assured she could do it. She said, “I was not worried” but rather “ready to engage in the U.S. culture and try something new.” Fahmy reports she was told the culture would have stark differences, however that did not hinder her because, “we are all still human beings.”
Fahmy and Sallam are nearing the end of their graduate studies in May, however their overall impact on Webster University is far from finished. The student organizations that have been and still are being improved by these women’s service include Student Ambassadors, First Year Experience, Student Government Association, International Student Association, and Graduate Student Association. When we asked why they made involvement such a priority, Fahmy testified, “For me it’s not just a scholarship, it is a chance to represent my country.”
With new diplomas and knowledge in hand, the women have service and constant improvement still at the forefront of their minds. Fahmy’s goal is to work at the United Nations in some capacity and seeks to be the first Prime Minister of Egypt, a position that has never been occupied by a woman. Fahmy possesses a strong desire to alter the ideas of conflict between the U.S. and Middle East in all of her pursuits. Sallam too believes the women in the program have abundant potential to bring about change. “Women know where the problems lie in their industries, private, government, or education, and now with their degree, they will be able to work towards the solution.” Fahmy concludes, “We have a lot of work to do. Our education was a gift and we are obligated to help those that don’t have the same gift.”
We concluded by asking the women for advice to share with readers. Sallam answered without hesitation, “We have to be more accepting of each other.” She knew this wasn’t always easy, however, she said, “You don’t have to go against yourself to find a common ground [and] be flexible even if they have different idea, perspectives and worldviews. Also, enjoy life.”
Fahmy advised to always stay open to new opportunities even if they seem difficult. “You should not expect that all people will believe in you, but my advice is to keep your sight on the goal and nothing, not money or nationality will hinder you from achieving it.”
At this point, we thought the interview was over, but Fahmy and Sallam sought to share their abundant appreciation before it was done.
Eman said she has come to greatly appreciate Webster University, and one person in particular within the community. “Dr. Stroble is a role model. She is busy with other campuses, but still knows my name.” She noted that success isn’t always easy, especially for women, therefore greatly admires President Stroble’s influence on her life.
Fahmy continued, “I want to thank you [U.S. citizens] for letting me study my passion.” “You are making a difference in the world in indirect ways. Special thanks to my professors and teachers. I am here today because you taught me to love the subject. Thanks to all the people here that believed in me, representing our University has been a great honor.” Sallam sought to thank the “people at Webster University who were not always the ‘well-known and famous’ but all those that supported me without expecting anything in return.” She also expressed appreciated to ECU Worldwide, her prior employer who graciously accommodated her absence while studying in the U.S., and facilitated an internship for her over the summer in New Jersey.
Finally, both wanted to thank their families. Fahmy noted her family as “the best supports in my life, ever.” Sallam dedicated her thanks toward her mother, who pushed her to achieve great things and her best friend, Mayerly. “Mayerly has done a lot for me since I have been in the U.S. and it is her birthday month!”
Fahmy reports that the best two years of her life have been spent here and said, “I don’t know how I will go back.” Sallam also indicated the transition would be bittersweet. Sallam did say she would be excited to drive again, as the terms of the scholarship did not allow her to drive in the U.S., which made for a lot of complications, however she will need some reacquainting with bustling streets of Egypt.
It has been an honor to learn more about these incredible women’s stories, but most importantly having them study at and improving the educations of so many Walker students. During the interview they said that they hoped to have made the program and those involved proud, and we are confident in confirming that they have made people more than proud, they have made and will continue to make a significant difference.