Fatema Kermalli, The Activist

There was a tipping point for Fatema Kermalli, and she knows precisely when it was and what it was—she just doesn’t know why it was.

“Israel’s war in Lebanon three years ago,” she said, “watching it on TV, I almost felt like I was there. For some reason I can’t explain, I took it all very personally. It made helping solve the Middle East conflict one of my life’s goals.”

Such a tipping point would make perfect sense if she were Lebanese. Or Israeli. But Kermalli has no connection to either country. A Muslim born in Kuwait to Indian parents and raised in a suburb of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Kermalli may not know why Lebanon had such an impact on her, but she is determined to have an impact in return.

Fatema Kermalli

Enter the Cornell Scholarship. With it, Kermalli has combined two majors—international relations and Jewish studies—to immerse herself in all aspects of the Israeli/Palestinian issue. Kermalli was instrumental in bringing Arabic language courses to Rollins, is on the staff of The Sandspur, and is president of Society for a Just Peace in Palestine, which hosts panel discussions about the conflict. This year, Kermalli is studying Arabic at the University of Jordan, thanks to the David L. Boren Scholarship, a prestigious award given to only 130 students nationally. Such an opportunity to expand her firsthand knowledge of the Middle East would have been unlikely without first receiving the Cornell, she said.

“The Cornell Scholarship is making independent study available to me while I’m overseas, so I can make the most of my experience,” she said. “At Rollins, it’s possible to take what you’re interested in and just run with it.”

Majors: International Relations & Jewish Studies
Hometown: Whitehall, PA (by way of Kuwait)
Little-known fact: Currently learning Arabic
Admires: President Jimmy Carter
Favorite literary character: Elizabeth Bennett
Known for: The eyes
Admits to… wasting time on Facebook
Favorite toy as a child: Teddy Precious (still has it)
You did what? Almost slept through a midterm
Nickname: GG
Breakfast: Oatmeal and tea
Motto: “Live each day as though it is your last.”
Dream job: Senior advisor in the State Department
In 10 years: Activist. Mother.

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