Hope Fund Scholar, Fulbright Alumna Win Prestigious Rhodes Scholarships

Palestinian Hope Fund Scholar Hashem Abu Sham'a (left) and Lebanese Fulbrighter Diala al Masri were selected from among hundreds of applicants to receive prestigious Rhodes Scholarships to study at Oxford University starting in fall 2017.  They have the distinction of being two of the first three individuals to win the new Rhodes Scholarship for Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine (SJLP), which was awarded in late November.  

Hashem, who grew up in Arroub Refugee Camp in Palestine, received a scholarship through the Hope Fund to attend Earlham College, where he will complete his bachelor’s degree in peace and global studies with a minor in economics in May 2017. At Earlham, he has clearly impressed his teachers and fellow students. “Hashem is like so many of Earlham's students, who are very bright, very active, and very concerned with the world around us,” said Academic Dean Greg Mahler of his selection to receive the Rhodes. “He has been a real leader on campus, and in my eyes is exactly the kind of student that the Rhodes Scholarship is seeking to recognize. He is clearly someone who is going to continue to be a leader in life.”

Hashem has left his mark in many other ways. Notably he was the first-ever Youth Representative of Palestine Refugees at the United Nations and the first Palestinian youth representative to address the UN. He has also been active in spreading awareness about the challenges facing Palestinians. While at Oxford, he plans to pursue an MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy and an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, and also hopes to continue his political advocacy for Palestine and to establish a network of community centers in refugee camps across Palestine.

As Hashem notes in a recent Hope Fund video, “I grew up in a refugee camp outside the city of Hebron on the West Bank… you grow up with, you know, tear gas canisters being thrown into your house with the sounds of live ammunition and rubber bullets always being present… Considering my background and where I come from…I always feel a commitment to go back and do something for my people.”

Diala attended Williams College on the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, earning a master’s degree in economics from the Massachusetts school’s Center for Development Economics (CDE) in 2015. She continued at the CDE, serving as a teaching assistant and currently as a research assistant focusing on determinants of capital flows and the long-term relationship of finance and development. She expects to continue this focus while completing her Ph.D. at Oxford. Longer term, she wishes to shape economic policies in the Middle East in ways that help overcome impediments to growth and to income equality in the context of fragile institutions and uncertainty. 

Diala earned her bachelor's degree in international affairs from the Lebanese American University in Beirut. While there, she stood out for her strong academics and extracurriculars. She attained the highest GPA in the School of Arts and Sciences and received the university’s Torch award, which recognizes students for their leadership and dedicated service to their community. In addition, she received the Harvard World Model United Nations 2013 Diplomacy Award and served with multiple NGOs in Lebanon, earning the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Community Ambassador Award in recognition of her leadership role in civic engagement events.