Q&A with Dr. Fadwa Gad, Fulbright Scholar in Residence
We sat down with Dr. Fadwa Gad for a brief question and answer session where we found out a little about her experience at St. Edward’s University thus far, and to get her thoughts on the Arab Spring movement.
Dr. Gad is an associate professor of English Literature at Helwan University in Cairo, Egypt. She is serving as Fulbright Scholar in Residence from January to May 2013. Her residency is hosted by the Kozmetsky Center of Excellence in Global Finance. Dr. Gad teaches "Approaches to Arab Biography" at St. Edward’s University. On Tuesday, March 19, at 7 p.m. Dr. Gad will give a public lecture in Jones Auditorium entitled "Fling Mud at the Cracking Wall: The People, the Arts and the Revolution in Egypt."
Q: How are you enjoying it so far?
Dr. Gad: I’m enjoying it very, very much.
Q. Have you been to Austin, Texas, before?
Dr. Gad: No, this is my first time, but I’ve been to the U.S. before.
Q. What are your thoughts about Austin, Texas, and St. Edward’s University so far?
Dr. Gad: I love St. Edward’s. The university is very good. The students are good. They are hard-working, and they do what you tell them. They do not have much of a background in the subjects I teach, so they have some difficulty, but they are very hard-working.
Q. What do you hope to gain from your visit to St. Edward’s and what do you hope students, faculty and staff will gain from your visit?
Dr. Gad: It’s an asset for me to be familiar with the system of learning here. This is the first time for me to teach non-Arabs. I’ve been a teacher for about 20 years, and this is my very first time to teach Americans. It’s very different. It’s a totally new experience, and I learn from them. They are teaching me some of the expressions that I don’t know. In your educational system, for example, I did not know that it is called middle school. For us, it is called prep school, so things like that they keep telling me about the ways we differ.
I have also learned how to deal in more practical ways. Basically I’m an academic with just books and research, but day to day I have to go grocery shopping, ask people where the bank is and how the bank works. It’s totally different. I’m learning every day.
Q. What do you hope the students and your peers will learn from you?
Dr. Gad: They (students) are committed, but they don’t have an extensive awareness about what’s happening in the world. When I ask them what they know about Egypt, they know very little. I think they need to gain a broader awareness of what’s going on in the world.
Q. St. Edward’s strives to provide a global perspective to students, put them in a place where they can be challenged and succeed academically, and to help them make a difference in the world. Do you think these are ideas that can be embraced by young people, and how?
Dr. Gad: The students here are very ready to open their minds to others, but I’m not sure what their preparation was like in high school. They are now in an ideal place and very ready to hear about the world.
Q. How do you think the students can become better prepared and more aware of global events?
Dr. Gad: Perhaps they should revise the history curriculum and revise the culture classes or endorse more languages to be learned.
Q. As an Egyptian, you experienced the Arab Spring first hand. What are your thoughts on how young people and technology played in party in the Arab Spring?
Dr. Gad: It took the appearance of technology playing a big part, but it was for communication. That’s how thousands of young people organized, but they did not decide on a revolution. At that time they just decided on demonstrations against civil grievances, but not an actual revolution. I wouldn’t claim technology did this, because it didn’t. It just created the first stage of organizing. What happened later was totally a reaction of the people who perhaps wouldn’t have organized, but they had experienced injustice. An inspiration came from Tunisia. Without Tunisia we wouldn’t have thought about a way to go out in the street in masses. We owe tribute to them, but then the way that Egyptians carried on - it was purely Egyptian.
Q. What was the motivation for young people to do this, and how could that inspire young people elsewhere?
Dr. Gad: I have to admit I’m not an authority on this. I did not recognize that I’m getting older until I saw what is happening, because then I realized that our young people think differently. They think differently than someone who is 40 years old and would never have dreamed of this. I participated later, but it was not something I would think of on my own.
The young are everything. They surprised us. They were amazing. They are totally creative. No one knew what they would come up with. Until now, they are the ones that are still standing and fighting for the rights of people who don’t know their rights. I am amazed.
It came from, I’m guessing, a great deal of negligence from the older generations who didn’t care about them. So they started to make their own codes, and live their own lives. They said, “If you don’t care of me, I don’t care of about you. I’m going to have my own ways in this world and you are not going to control me anymore.”
It was translated politically because the rulers were old as well and couldn’t think in the way the young people think. Because of the negligence (older generations of Egyptians towards the young), they started to have their own ways. They are young and they are energetic. I am biased, but the Egyptian young people are really the smartest. They are very smart, but they don’t have enough facilities to show that. Imagine what would have happened if they lived in better circumstances. I would say what they did was quite an achievement and a surprise to me.