Class of 2020 Success Stories: MACIE program enhances Iraqi student's leadership skills as a cross-cultural education scholar

MACIE program enhances Iraqi student's leadership skills as a cross-cultural education scholar

Shadan Albakua’s family was displaced after hometown fell to insurgents in 2014

By Bob Cunningham ’18

Shadan Albakua’s life was forever changed in June 2014 when the city of Mosul fell to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) insurgents.

More than 500,000 Iraqi civilians became displaced because of the violence, including Albakua and her family.

“We lost our sense of belonging and, after that, we became a different family,” she said. “After 2014, every family in Mosul City lost one of their family members either when traveling outside of the country or killed during the attacks.

“It was a traumatic experience to be away from my hometown and friends. One of the sad moments was when I graduated from college without any of my friends, and most of them were in the city of Mosul. We moved to a small home, and we spent a lot of money paying rent and buying new housing stuff. In the meantime, my family had lost a lot of our savings, like any family who had left Mosul City.”

After Albakua received her bachelor's degree in biology at Mosul University, she volunteered to teach biology classes to middle school-aged refugee students for two years after graduation.

That’s when Bowling Green State University piqued her interest — especially the Master of Arts in Cross-Cultural and International Education (MACIE) program.

“I chose BGSU for many reasons,” she said. “The first one was because my brother (Faisal Albakooa '18, Master of Technology Management in construction management and technology) graduated from BGSU. He always talked about the supportive and safe environment on the BGSU campus.

“I became interested in the MACIE program because it offers a strong educational foundation that includes people from different backgrounds. MACIE has also enhanced my knowledge and skills as a leader and a cross-cultural education scholar. Also, my research interests center around children's rights in education and immigrants — specifically refugee education.”

MACIE is an academic, research-oriented graduate program in the University’s School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy (EFLP). The program, in the College of Education and Human Development, offers students rigorous coursework with opportunities for collaborative, community service. Its graduates are prepared to become effective leaders in cross-cultural and international education arenas. With a core curriculum in educational foundations, research methods and a minor outside of education, students examine education issues from diverse perspectives in international, transnational and global contexts. The program connects cultural and international understanding with educational theory and practice through a unique combination of courses from several disciplines at BGSU.

“The second reason I chose BGSU is my decision to expand my education qualifications and perspectives to help people worldwide to get their education,” said Albakua, who graduated in December. “The last reason is to represent my country and be an independent Muslim woman.”

She said BGSU allowed her to build friendships with people from different backgrounds.

“I love the diversity at BGSU and the respect shared among all of us,” Albakua said.

She also appreciated the program’s helpful faculty and mentors, including Dr. Bruce Collet, MACIE program coordinator and her academic supervisor.

“Dr. Collet always believed in my abilities, and he supported me during my journey in MACIE,” she said. “He provided me with excellent guidance during my graduate degree journey.”

"Shadan has been a very hard working and dedicated student in our program," Collet said. "Moreover, she is one of the kindest people you will ever meet. Her smile is infectious and lightens everyone's day. We are very happy and proud that Shadan was able to join us in the MACIE program, and are confident that she will enact positive changes in the years to come."

“Another person I would like to mention is Dr. Christopher Frey. I had two courses with him, and he was a supportive professor and a good listener to his students’ issues. Overall, I would like to mention that all the staff in the MACIE program were approachable and kind.”

For her master's degree capstone applied project, Albakua wrote about some of the challenges she faced as a refugee.

“I wanted to provide teachers in U.S. schools with a teaching guide to assist the refugee students overcome their challenges and to be successful by ensuring that the teachers know more about who a refugee is and the challenges they faced during the flee journey,” she said.

Albakua also gained valuable experience volunteering at the local and international level.

“My first experience was volunteering with Habitat of Humanity of Wood County, and they were a fantastic team,” she said. “I learned a lot from them, and I would like to thank Earlene and Mark for all the kindness and support they gave me.

“One of the fantastic moments that MACIE program helped me achieve was when I got accepted for online volunteering with the United Nations. COVID-19 had canceled my summer internship with the Cleveland Council on World Affairs organization. At least, I had the chance to visit their office and interview and accept the position. I appreciate how my interests in working with the CCWA was respected.

“Later, a public administration program at BGSU opened a summer internship for grant writing, and I applied and was accepted. I felt a closer connection to BGSU because it provided me the chance to learn something different for my future career during the pandemic.” 

Now that Albakua has gone through the MACIE program, she believes she will be able to accomplish her professional goals.

“Without studying in the MACIE program, I don't think I would be able to help people around the world professionally and recognize people's differences,” she said. “I am so thankful for all my MACIE experiences — they allowed me to expand my knowledge about subjects different from my undergraduate major. I shared some of the stories from my country with my classmates and professors, and I was so proud of sharing them.

“I hope one day that I can achieve one of my dreams of working with the United Nations and providing help for all the people worldwide. Also, I will always be thankful for the opportunity the MACIE program gave me, and I will keep in mind assisting the program as I can in any way in the future.”

Media Contact | Colleen Rerucha | rerucha@bgsu.edu