Berkeleyan Masthead HomeSearchArchive

This Week's Stories

Opportunities for undergrad research are plentiful and diverse

History major named University Medalist

One man's trash is another man's treasure

Mrs. Wheaton goes to Washington

Berkeley Faculty Association joins national alliance

The universe is flat, after all

Animal locomotion as high science

Kudos for Mark Twain catalogue

Rigoberta Menchú: 'The struggle for human rights is permanent and ongoing.'

Celebrating Chicano-Latino car culture for Semana de la Raza

Streamlining campus business using the Web

Regular Features




Campus Calendar


News Briefs


History major named University Medalist

Top graduating senior hopes to promote Palestinian rights as activist-scholar

By Janet Gilmore, Public Affairs
Posted May 10, 2000

Fadia RafeedieFadia Rafeedie's parents, who immigrated from Palestine, always stressed that education isn't a vehicle for personal success, but for improving the lives of Palestinians, wherever they live.

As she completes her senior year, Rafeedie -- a 22-year-old history major minoring in Spanish and Arabic -- certainly knows success. She's earned all As, half of them A+s; had work published in a scholarly journal; and has been accepted to law school at Yale University.

This week, Rafeedie received another honor -- the University Medal, awarded each year to the campus's top graduating senior. Chancellor Berdahl presented the prize May 10 at Commencement Convocation, which honors all graduating seniors.

But despite her academic accomplishments, the undergraduate says she's not the type "to be locked in an ivory tower. I love to search for truth and meaning, but unless this is applied on the ground level, it's not, for me, going to have a ripple effect."

While at Berkeley, Rafeedie helped establish a local chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, wrote for the online publication "Free Arab Voice," and was active in the Arab Student Union.

Rafeedie also did extensive work with community organizations, planned scholarly conferences, tutored high school and college students, and participated in student demonstrations.

After law school, she plans to become an activist-scholar, working either in the United States or in the Arab world as an advocate for Palestinian rights.

A campus committee selected Rafeedie as University Medalist from among five finalists, based on her grades, resumé, nominating letters and a three-page essay.

"I'm still surprised," she said. "There is part of me still saying, 'You're not deserving. There are a lot of brilliant people here.'"

But Rafeedie's professors have been dazzled by her work.

Associate Professor of History Beshara Doumani, who taught Rafeedie in his course on the history of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict, called her final essay a "tour de force." It was eventually published in the Berkeley Undergraduate History Journal.

Associate Professor Muhammad Siddiq, who taught Rafeedie in two courses, considers her one of the finest students he has known in his 20 years of teaching.

"For both papers she chose controversial topics and argued them persuasively against the grain of accepted 'expert' wisdom and the collective sentiment of the class," Siddiq wrote in his nominating letter.

Born in Ohio, Rafeedie was raised in Southern California's San Bernardino County. Her Palestinian parents immigrated to the United States before she was born.

When she was accepted to Berkeley, her family -- including an uncle who was a political prisoner in an Israeli jail -- was excited and proud that she would attend a university known for progressive ideals.



May 10 - June 6, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 33)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail