Northwestern Magazine
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Salma Al-Shami

Changing the Political Tune

Salma Al-Shami spent part of last summer in a Syrian relief camp, distributing food and medical supplies to victims of the war between Israel and Lebanon. She remembers TVs, tuned to news stations, blaring constantly.

"I was with people who were waking up every day to try to find out if their loved ones were still alive or if their homes were still standing," says the senior from Mamaroneck, N.Y. "The war was two sides shouting at each other and neither listening to what the other had to say." The experience further strengthened Al-Shami's belief in Peace of Mind, the Jewish-Muslim dialogue group at Northwestern. She recently served as the group's vice president.

This belief in the power of expression also inspired the vocal performance and political science major to teach voice and piano to members of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in west Evanston. She did so as a member of the Music Learning Community, a Northwestern organization of music educators committed to creating a community of musicians who share music making and strive for continuous learning through performance and service. Her passion for music culminated in a senior vocal recital that included a full program of Spanish music, a choir, a guitarist and a flamenco dancer.

Al-Shami, who has U.S. and Syrian citizenship, says her ethnic background and her interest in current events sparked her studies in political science. She also speaks Arabic and French. For her senior thesis, she studied the viability of democratization in the Middle East. She acknowledges the formidability of such a topic within the scope of a year's study. She will return to Syria to continue her work and studies after graduation.

She would eventually like to go to graduate school for foreign policy and Middle Eastern studies.

- Robert Brenner (J07)