Naim Aburaddi, a graduate student in the communication studies department who graduated at CSUSB’s spring 2022 commencement, was recently accepted into the prestigious doctoral program in media studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder with full funding and a research assistantship position. Aburaddi has had an amazing academic career leading up to his acceptance into the Ph.D. program.

“After eight years of being a nomad, not seeing my family, studying and working in a number of countries, learning three languages (Arabic, English and Turkish), and pursuing an MA degree, I am excited about taking the next step of attending a Ph.D. program that will deepen my study of the digital media’s misrepresentation of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and other Indigenous communities, and how members of those populations utilize digital technologies to share their self-representations and to contest decolonization,” he said.

Aburaddi received his bachelor of arts in the Department of Journalism from Istanbul University in Turkey in 2019. He then joined the Department of Communication Studies at CSUSB after meeting Ahlam Muhtaseb, professor of media studies, who encouraged him to apply to CSUSB’s graduate program.

He met Muhtaseb at a conference as part of a nonprofit exchange program. He was one of four Palestinian students selected for the program that involved visiting the United States and participating in cultural, civic engagement and educational programs that provided tools for identifying and implementing creative approaches to address education and social issues in students’ local communities. During this program, Aburaddi presented 30 speeches in 28 U.S. cities about obstacles that he experienced and overcame in Gaza and in Istanbul.

“Naim is one of the most outstanding students I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, and I went out of my way to recruit Naim to our graduate program after reading about his story of resilience in Gaza, where he was ranked the third top student in Palestine in his high school standardized exams,” said Muhtaseb. “I am happy that he will be graduating from our program with all the amazing achievements he has under his belt so far. Naim has scientific curiosity and a love for knowledge that are unparalleled. He is not only hard-working but is also very persistent in exploring every academic opportunity that opens up for him. What makes his research unique too is his focus on social change and social justice, especially in his work on Palestine.”

Muhtaseb served as the committee chair on Aburaddi’s thesis “Advancing Pride: How New Turkish Historical Dramas Challenged Western Media’s Stereotypical Images of Muslims.”

Aburaddi has had a paper competitively selected to the Political Communication Division at the National Communication Association Conference and most recently attended a conference held by Arab Studies Quarterly and the Center for the Study of the Muslim and Arab Worlds at CSUSB to present a research study developed with Muhtaseb and Rana Sharif, lecturer of gender and women’s studies at Cal State Northridge, titled “Censorship and Disruptions: The Case of Palestinian Digital Resistance.”

In addition to attending conferences, his research was recently published in “Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Palestine,” a co-edited volume in the “Detours” series of alternative guidebooks published by Duke University Press and was invited to revise and resubmit a paper to the Journal of International & Intercultural Communication.

Aburaddi was named the College of Arts and Letters’ Outstanding Graduate Student. He was also named as one of the Outstanding Graduate Students and Outstanding GTAs (Graduate Teaching Associate) by the CSUSB Department of Communication Studies.

He has  won a number of  scholarships to fund his research including the Graduate Extended Reality Research Scholarship for $3,000 from the Extended Reality for Learning (xREAL) Lab with Information Technology Services (ITS) at CSUSB. The scholarship was for the research proposal “How Can the 360-Camera Technology Be Utilized as a Decolonial Tool?” to conduct an applied project intended to aid Palestinian groups and organizations that get accepted to present their work at international conferences and festivals, but cannot attend because of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

Each year, xREAL works with faculty fellows and undergraduate and graduate students across disciplines to provide a vision for future teaching and learning, mentorship and hands-on experience for the students, and sustainable innovation for the larger campus community.

“I plan to collaborate with a nonprofit organization in Gaza to establish a lab that has 360-camera technology that helps those groups to present their work at those conferences,” said Aburaddi. “This project, thus, applies media theories that I have learned to aid marginalized groups’ use of digital technologies to offer their self-representation.”

Aburaddi has more than just academic ties to the blockade; he has also had to deal with the effects of the blockade in his personal life. Before leaving to study at Istanbul University, Aburaddi missed out on many scholarships and academic opportunities because he could not complete the required visa interviews in Jerusalem due to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

In an interview with the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, his grandmother described his struggles to receive assistance to attend university despite his hard work as “a year-long fast. Not just the month of Ramadan, but a whole year of dedication.” But at the end, she laments, “He is left with just a slice of onion on his plate to eat!”

Luckily, he was able to leave Gaza to study in Turkey after he was awarded the Türkiye scholarship. But even after finally leaving to attend a university as he had previously worked so hard to, he still feels the effects of the blockade.

Aburaddi said that one of the toughest challenges he has faced so far is being away from his family. He notes that it is extremely difficult to enter and leave Gaza, therefore has not been able to meet with them. Aburaddi, unfortunately, lost his grandmother while completing his BA and had to manage the anxiety of watching from afar as his family back in Gaza was under attack last May.

“We were in the final weeks, but I could not focus on studying because of the anxiety, stress and depression that I had at that time. I was always on my phone with my family to make sure they are fine,” he said. “It was like a nightmare to see your family under attack and sit there unable to help. All that happened while I was working on my finals and teaching my oral communication class. I did my best to not let that affect me negatively from pursuing my master’s, which I successfully and proudly did.”

Despite being away from his family in Gaza, he found inspiration and support in the United States from his second family.

“My second family here in the United States, Wael and Maha Faqih, are my real inspiration,” he said. “They are a Palestinian couple who started their life from scratch. They established and have been running one of the most successful engineering companies in Southern California. They are a perfect example of a successful Muslim Arab family. They inspired me with their remarkable success. They supported me to come to the United States and continue my graduate studies. So, they are not only inspirational but very supportive of me. I would not achieve what I’ve achieved without them.”

Aburaddi is also grateful for both the CSUSB communication studies program and faculty for what they have contributed to his academic journey. “I like that we have great faculty who work on issues related to social justice in media such as Dr. Ahlam Muhtaseb and Dr. Liliana Conlisk-Gallegos,” he said. “That actually helped me a lot to improve my research and be the scholar I am today. I also like the graduate teaching program. This is my second [year] as an oral communication instructor. It has been a great experience to teach my own class, which gives me the experience that I need for my Ph.D. Although we teach our own classes, we still get a lot of support from our faculty.”

He also credits communication studies faculty members Jo Anna Grant, Larry Hygh, Mihaela Popescu, Thomas Corrigan and Theo Mazumdar for helping him at CSUSB.

“I like the support that we get from our amazing professors,” he said. “I am grateful and thankful to all my professors who believed in me and supported me throughout my journey.”