By Macy Moore
Omar El-Halwagi ’11, Texas A&M’s most recent Truman Scholar, is pursuing a dual degree at The University of Michigan Law School, where he is working toward becoming an employment discrimination lawyer. El-Halwagi ultimately decided to attend Texas A&M University because of the enrichment opportunities offered by Honors.
“I was admitted to the Business Honors program and loved the idea that I could attend an institution with as many resources that only a large school like A&M could have, while receiving the personalized attention one could attain through the honors program,” El-Halwagi says. “My dad is a professor at A&M, and he was rooting for me to go to A&M the whole time. It was one of the best decisions of my life. There’s no way I would have had all the current success in my life without A&M.”
Some of his favorite memories at Texas A&M are from his involvement on the Speech and Debate team.
“I served as President for three years of the team, and we traveled across the country giving speeches on issues we cared about. Plus, the road trips with my fellow Aggies never disappointed!”
Aside from the team, he also enjoyed participating in the Public Policy Internship Program. It was through PPIP that El-Halwagi interned at FEMA in 2010 and in love with Washington D.C. and government.
“The opportunity to be able to do that would not have been possible had I not been a student at A&M. That office was truly incredible in facilitating that experience for me.”
In 2011, El-Halwagi and a friend had the opportunity to design and teach their own upper-level business course, entitled “Hot Topics in Business,” under the supervision of a professor.
“It was an amazing professional opportunity to fill a gap I saw in the curriculum and grow as a communicator,” he says. “While at the business school, I also served as one of the coordinators of the Freshman Business Initiative, where I helped three classes of freshmen acclimate to Texas A&M and find a space for themselves where they could be supported.”
In 2009, he was granted the opportunity to travel to Beijing as a student ambassador to the China-US Relations Conference. George Bush founded the conference, and 20 of the 26 selected student ambassadors were from Texas A&M. He deems the experience “by far one of the best” of his life.
He personally considers the fellowship office the most helpful aspect of the Honors Program. He credits Kyle Mox, the former national fellowships coordinator, for helping him attain his Truman Scholarship, and says that without his assistance, his life would be completely different.
El-Halwagi refers to the Truman Scholarship as “the gift that keeps on giving” as he was hired by a former Truman scholar at the City of Houston following graduation. Along with the scholarship’s positive affects, he attributes his other academic involvement to his professional success.
“PPIP gave me experience working in a large governmental body that I was able to apply at the City of Houston,” he says. “My capstone strategic management course helped me as an internal consultant at the City of Houston on how to approach large problems and create efficient solutions. My desire to become an employment discrimination lawyer is founded in the courses I took at Mays from Professor Paetzold and Professor Hailey.”
Needless to say, his undergraduate experience at Texas A&M gave him the essential foundations for his career aspirations. El-Hawagi advises Texas A&M current students to take every opportunity that presents itself.
“So much of my success was just the fact that I kept building on the opportunities I was given,” he says. “Form relationships with professors. Find the classes you think will be engaging and take them. I took maybe five or six theatre classes while at A&M, and avoided accounting like the plague! Befriend people who inspire you. My friends at A&M are deserving of so much credit for my success. I’ll never forget when I sent out my Truman application to a few friends at A&M, and how within one hour, three of them told me how bad it was and gave me constructive criticism on how to improve it. I crafted an entirely new application within three days because of their support. And finally, believe in yourself. There is a huge world out there, and A&M has provided you with the tools to own it; do so.”
El-Halwagi was recently invited to present at TEDxACU. His talk, titled, “When Faced with Islamophobia, Will You Be an Ally?” can be found online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw5zCYYSvGQ.
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