Dr. Nagwa Nawar, professor of Organometallic and Inorganic Chemistry at Mansoura University in Egypt, is preparing to leave her Fulbright Scholar residency at Snow College. She is a married mother of two and teaches science and chemistry in ancient Egypt as part of her Fulbright Fellowship. Her Snow College experience, beginning in 2013, has been her second Fulbright Scholarship; the first being in 1995 at Texas A&M University for research in her field.
Recounting the last nine months she has spent here at Snow College, Nawar expressed the difficulty of bringing such a broad experience together for explanation:
“The hardest part is to talk about yourself. To collect the data and write it down,” she said.
True to her expertise in the sciences, Dr. Nawar cannot help but speak in the language of science, even when speaking poetically.
Given the last years of her life, there has truly been much “data” to “collect,” both literally and figuratively. Nawar’s life before coming here was very rich and full of experiences, both painful and beautiful. She had lost her brother during the Egyptian revolution and was undergoing many changes within her personal life and with her career as well. During this period, she wondered at where her research and discipline would be best applied at that stage of her life, eventually deciding that another Fulbright Fellowship was what she needed to do.
Being a “Fulbrighter” requires a great sacrifice, as it necessitates one’s uprooting from home and family and relocation to a foreign country. This circumstance would be the catalyst for some of the difficulties Nawar would face here in Ephraim, as well as the rewarding experiences to follow.
When she decided to fellowship with Snow College, Nawar did not fully understand the context of where she would be participating. As there are no colleges in Egypt, and she understood the word “college” to translate as “faculty.” Dr. Nawar believed she would be arriving in the United States to work with a University with a fully operational academic research facility. This, of course, was not the case.
Without access to the equipment necessary for her laboratory research, Nawar was unsure what she would be able to accomplish here. “We, as scientists, have very little continuity in our lives. However, sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same,” she said.
During the winter, Dr. Nawar experienced her first difficulties with Utah’s frigid winter season. She had never experienced such conditions before and found the winter to be a melancholy experience. It was during this time that she became injured and received medical treatment. It was a new experience with the United States health care system, and more difficulties presented themselves when it came to paying for treatment.
“Last semester, I had some trouble with the snowfall, cold weather and preparing new materials for classes and presentations. I slipped and fell on the ice that winter and my shoulder was dislocated. I received treatment for three months and sometimes had some pain,” she said.
Shortly after, realizing that due to further difficulties regarding being unable to bring her family to visit here for the holidays, Dr. Nawar decided to return home to Egypt over Christmas break. She wondered whether she had made the right decision to come to Snow College, and whether she should return. After contemplating and discussing with her family what she should to do next, Nawar decided to return to Ephraim with a change of perspective. She felt that God had meant for her to come to Snow College for a reason. She was going to make it work for the better.
“In spite of all these problems, God helped me and I succeeded in doing many wonderful things at the same time,” She explained. “I am sure was sent me here for something positive, so I have to gain that.”
As a Fulbright scholar at Snow college, Nawar gave presentations here at Snow College as well as SUU, BYU, Thomas College in Portland, Maine and the University of West Alabama.
“On October 31, 2013, I was invited to give a presentation at the annual Snow College convocation of the Grace Tanner Lecture series on “World of Islam” by Snow College Convocations. Almost 500 students, public community and faculties attended and I received letters of appreciation and e-mails,” she recalled.
After giving her lecture at convocations, Dr. Nawar returned to her office and noticed a letter that had been slipped under her door. The letter was written by an anonymous student, and conveyed great appreciation for what Nawar had shared with the student body. The letter expressed sincere gratitude for the presentation about the Islamic religion, her knowledge and efforts, thanking her for “changing our lives for the better.”
Dr. Nawar proudly displays the letter now in her office. In her own gratitude, Dr. Nawar divulged her emotional response:
“You can’t believe what happened to me after this. I felt so happy about myself,” she said. “I am so proud of this. Even more than the other acknowledgments and certificates I received. This is a real certificate about knowledge. So, something like this more than any visit or any talk demonstrates my good life. I’m sure God has asked me to come here for some reason. Why? I don’t know. But it is something that has been good for me, and definitely for my family too.”
Given that Dr. Nawar was intent on continuing research in her field, she reached out to Brigham Young University for assistance. She explained the process:
“In order to communicate with the other places and with the help of my colleagues, Clinton King and Dan Black, I had a meeting with Prof. Roger G. Harrison, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, at Brigham Young University. We talked about our chemistry interest and the possible ways to collaborate and continue my research with him. He suggested I should apply to get an Affiliate Faculty Position at Brigham Young University (BYU). A few weeks later, I succeeded to get it and that helped me to get access to the University, library and allow me to continue and transfer my research to SC students.”
Dr. Nawar participated in multiple Snow College field trips, such as a visit Salt Lake City to observe the “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times,” exhibition. Many students were exposed to the history and context of these priceless artifacts.
“This semester also, I shared a course with my colleague Chad Dewey, Director of Natural Resources. My contribution was on water and water treatment. We had a nice experience in the classroom, indoor laboratory, and our outdoor field trip,” she said.
Rounding out her Snow College experience, Dr. Nawar provided an integral service to Snow College students during Snow’s annual “International day,” during which the local and foreign exchange students participate in the sharing of cuisine, culture and art.
“On April 10, 2014, I was involved with the “International Day,” held in the GSC. I cooked and made sandwiches of delicious Egyptian Falafel and Beans. “It was a marvelous day,” she declared. The cafeteria staff assisted Dr. Nawar in preparing her meal for the festival, and she was very touched and grateful for the experience of working with them.
Nagwa Nawar has a long history of academic accomplishment before fulfilling her role as a leader and cultural liaison for Fulbright. Dr. Nawar earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Mansoura University in 1979 and a doctorate degree in Organometallic and Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Liverpool in 1989.
For five years, Dr. Nawar served as the Director of the English for Specific Purposes Research Center at Mansoura University. She also taught Saudi Arabian women inorganic chemistry in years previous.
As a Fulbrighter, Dr. Nawar has visited many countries. Nawar’s scientific research has been presented in several counties, including France, Finland, Austria, Greece, Italy, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, China and the United States. Additionally, Nawar has received several awards for her research. With an immense amount of success in a male dominated science field, Nawar continues to serves as a role model to aspiring female scientists.
Dr. Nawar continues to be a passionate advocate for furthering opportunities for women in the sciences, and beyond them. “Every woman, as a leader, has a story, and she wants to share it with the world. A woman is a woman. Everywhere! It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. Women face many problems in their lives, not just in their careers but with their families.” She encourages any and all women who are interested in academic leadership to pursue the course.
Needless to say, Dr. Nawar has accomplished much in her short time here at Snow College, and much more than was touched on in this article. She has learned things from her experience here that she deeply values, and quite significantly, has taught even more.
She still asks, with a smile in all exuberance and anticipation, “What is next? I’m excited about what is next! I hope God helps me with a good future.”
Dr. Nagwa Nawar, expressly, wanted to impart her important experiences to the students of Snow College and all the aspiring people of world. She hopes we will embrace our experiences and our future, while happily anticipating what will come next.