Celebrating Arab American Heritage Month at Battelle
April is National Arab American Heritage Month, recognizing the achievements of Arab Americans and celebrating the community’s rich, diverse heritages and contributions to society. Following are profiles of two Battelle employees, including their thoughts on their heritage, culture and work.
Noor Refai, Battelle Financial Analyst (and just started a new role in Project Controls on March 1st)
Empathetic, Adaptable, Persevering
My father is the first Arab-American in our family, and his remarkable life story has been a constant source of inspiration for me. Growing up in Palestine, he faced adversity, including poverty and war, yet fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a civil engineer. His career opportunities took us to various parts of the world including the UAE, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and many others. However, it was his role as the Director of Water Resources & Infrastructure at the USAID West Bank & Gaza Mission, based in Tel Aviv, that has had the most significant impact on me.
His work with USAID created better access to water, expanded hospitals, and paved roads for hundreds of thousands of people across the West Bank. It was a full-circle moment for him to serve as a Foreign Service Officer for the American government overseas while also utilizing his expertise as a Civil Engineer to improve his community. This experience served as a tribute to both his American and Arab identities. As children, the belief in our own ability to change the world and improve the communities that we live in is felt in abundance, but sometimes the realities of adulthood can diminish that part of us. My father's lifelong commitment to that belief and what he was able to achieve because of it, is a constant reminder to me to stay focused on making a difference in the world.
Before even choosing my career path, I had always been driven to work for an organization that has a positive effect on the world. It did not take much research into Battelle’s projects and its people to know that its mission aligned with these values. Seeing firsthand the many challenges that face communities around the world, I have been passionate about contributing to solutions that can break down barriers and improve people’s lives regardless of their background, identities, or the communities they originate from. It is inspiring to see how Battelle uses science to drive innovation that changes the world for the better. While working in pricing, I was amazed by the diversity of projects and initiatives that Battelle pursues. Now, in my new role in Project Controls, I am eager to track these initiatives as they come to fruition. It is an honor to be part of an organization that is making a significant impact in the world, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this effort.
With kids of my own and raising a new generation of Arab-Americans, I feel a greater level of responsibility in preserving our heritage. It is a constant balance of bringing traditions from our home across the ocean while understanding that we are just as much a part of the local community here. Maintaining and also teaching that balance to my kids is difficult at times but creates a great opportunity to be creative in our celebrations and encourages cross cultural and interfaith collaborations throughout our communities! We have donated books to our children’s schools, worn traditional clothing to events around Columbus, shared food with coworkers, and engaged in thought-provoking conversations around identity and heritage.
John Saad, Battelle Computer Engineer in the Cyber Solutions Division
Determined, Enthusiastic, Adaptable
My family and I immigrated to the United States from Egypt 10 years ago and I’ve been at Battelle for a year and a half. I am always determined to do my best and achieve my full potential. Being enthusiastic means that I am always volunteering myself for new tasks and experiences, even if it is not in my primary interests. I have discovered the fastest and most valuable growth comes outside of my comfort zone. Being an immigrant from a culture that is different from the average American culture taught me adaptability.
Battelle’s mission and my goals could not have been more compatible. Some of my goals in life are to explore, learn and serve. Battelle strives for scientific discovery and inventions that serve humanity. Battelle has a true peer learning culture. As a recent graduate, I could not have found a better place to grow and apply my skills other than Battelle and eventually by being able to give back.
Being an Arab, especially an Egyptian, means to me that I am a product of many cultures and civilizations. The pharaohs, the Romans, the Mamluk Dynasty, the Ottomans and even the colonists’ cultures. This is the civilizations that formed the modern Egyptian culture, the rest of the Arab world has a variety of cultures as well. Celebrating Arab Heritage month to me means celebrating rich cultures, a variety of food, and a language with several dialects."
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