From the time you meet Shirin Alhroob, with her outgoing personality and inquisitive nature, you want to hear her story. What’s more, she has many interesting tales to tell. Originally from Jordan, Shirin earned her bachelor’s degree from University of Jordan in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
“I received my bachelor’s degree in agriculture and was working as an Extension Training Officer with the Arab Organization for Agriculture Development, even helping in authoring books about agricultural processes in National Center for Agricultural Research and Technology Transfer (NCARTT). When we moved to the United States, I wanted to do something to have a more secure future for myself here,” Shirin said.
Deciding to go back to school, Shirin will earn her degree in information technology programming and software development. She said, “My two-year degree at Forsyth Tech will take me further, and offer me greater opportunities for a career.”
Shirin tells her sons, ages 14, 12 and 6, that education will give them a good life. Following her lead, one son said, “Mom, I want to go through a two-year school first because I see your example.”
As Shirin began classes at Forsyth Tech, she also was curious about what other opportunities and clubs she could get involved with on campus. She became a student ambassador, PTK Alpha Mu Rho Chapter’s president, a work-study student at the Education Career Center on the West Campus and became a Vice Chair at the City of Winston-Salem College Advisory Board. As she became more involved on campus, she found out about the Pulitzer Center.
Forsyth Tech joined the Pulitzer Center Campus Consortium two years ago, which is a network of universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, historically black colleges and universities (HCBUs), and graduate schools of journalism and public health.
The Pulitzer Center offers opportunities and scholarships to journalists and student fellows to report on projects that focus on topics and regions of global importance, with an emphasis on issues that have gone unreported or under-reported in mainstream American media.
Intrigued by the opportunity to write with the Pulitzer Center, Shirin began to investigate what she could report on and where. She knew her family would be traveling to Jordan in the summer so she considered proximity and her options. She wondered if more women were involved in information technology in other countries. Her proposal was to report on “The Role of Women in IT in Turkey.”
Shirin applied, interviewed and was accepted by the Pulitzer Center. She was only one of 43 students from the United States and Canada to be selected as a journalist for the Pulitzer Center. This past July, she spent eight days talking with women at both the Bahcesehir University and at the Istanbul Technical University where she met with a STEM club. Shirin discovered there were many similarities between women in the information technology field in Turkey and in the United States. Some dreamed of graduating and going to work for Google and, like the IT field in the United States, it is mostly a male-dominated field in Turkey.
“Many women were afraid to talk with me at first,” Shirin explained, “so I had to make them trust me; if they didn’t want to be recorded, I wouldn’t record them.” She told them she was studying information technology in the United States, and demonstrated the connection with her research.”
Shirin said it was normal to have some fear, you have to remember where you are. “You are in a foreign country and do not speak the language.” Yet, she said the people were welcoming when she explained she wanted to explore their culture. She also worked with an American journalist in Turkey who was affiliated with the Pulitzer Center.
Overall, Shirin’s experience had a huge impact on her. “It really strengthened my skills in learning to relate to people in another culture and opened my mind.” She now has many friends from Turkey connecting with her on LinkedIn and she is learning to speak Turkish.
As this year’s Forsyth Tech’s President of Phi Theta Kappa, Shirin will discuss her experience in Turkey at the Carolinas Region Leadership Conference of Phi Theta Kappa in November.
Caption – Shirin Alhroob from Forsyth Technical Community College answers a question while Mariana Rivas from Texas Christian University, Taylor Damann from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and Cammie Behnke from Elon University listen. Image by Nora Moraga-Lewy. United States, 2019.
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