Elon University has emphasized engaging the global community for decades. Regardless of foreign conflicts, especially those in the Middle East, the faculty and student population at Elon strive to respect all students, which is evident in the experiences of students from the Middle East who have attended Elon.
In 1948, three Iraqi students attended Elon: Meir Gabbay, his cousin Jacob (Jack) Gabbay, and Eliahoo Reuben. They enjoyed the Southern culture and friendliness of North Carolina, which was similar to the culture of hospitality at home. Meir Gabbay was a reporter for the Maroon and Gold and a member of the International Relations Club. He graduated in 1949 with a major in Business Administration. Jack Gabbay graduated in 1950.
In 1981, Iranian native Nader Hamidpour studied at Elon after transferring from Guilford Technical Institute. Hamidpour acclimated quickly to North Carolina, but still faced culture shock. He stated in an interview that though there were sometimes arguments, the people at Elon understood he had nothing to do with the ongoing issues in Iran; they showed him support and kindness. Hamidpour was an artist and the head of photography for the Pendulum. He also had his artwork sold internationally. He graduated in December 1982. His philosophy was, “I’m very hopeful of the future. Life is a process; what you give, you gain and will receive back.”
Laith al-Majali of Amman, Jordan majored in broadcast communications and minored in theater while being involved in many extracurricular activities, including Leadership Fellows. He was the first Jordanian student to enroll at Elon after receiving the King Hussein Scholarship and became one of 65 international students at the university.
In the first two weeks of his freshman year, September 11 occurred. Rather than leaving Elon, al-Majali used the tragedy as an opportunity to teach students about the Middle East. He claimed that the media portrays things how they want them to be seen, which is often unrepresentative. In 2001, al-Majali stated, “If you find one rotten orange on a tree, it doesn’t mean that the whole tree is rotten.” He graduated in 2005 and went on to make “Captain Abu Raed,” the first Jordanian film to be shown at the Sundance Film Festival. The film received multiple awards. Al-Majali was the commencement speaker in 2010.
In 2011, Elon University began offering a minor in Middle Eastern studies. Today, there are multiple student organizations and study abroad programs relevant to Middle Eastern studies. Elon University makes an effort to create an inclusive community, so students from all nations and backgrounds find a place to bELONg.