Mohamad Mirghahari, B.A. ’02 and M.A. ’04, was awarded the School of Diplomacy and International Relations’ inaugural Abd el Kader fellowship.
According to Seton Hall’s website, the Abd el Kader fellowship’s purpose is to create collaborations “with organizations representing different faith traditions as well as with government agencies that are trying to address the crisis of terrorism being carried out in the name of Islam.”
Mirghahari, the first person that the fellowship was awarded to, was described as a “gifted leader” by Dr. Andrea Bartoli, Dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, in an email.
Bartoli mentioned why he believed Mirghahari was a worthy choice for the Abd el Kader fellowship.
“[Mirghahari’s] credentials are impressive,” Bartoli said. “He is an expert tactical communicator and relationship-builder with exceptional understanding complex, mission-critical challenges.”
Mirghahari fits the standard that the School of Diplomacy has put into place for the Abd el Kader Fellowship.
“The Abd el Kader Fellowship aims at engaging the experience of this Muslim leader as a way to understand leadership at large, especially at a time of deep divisions and conflicts,” Bartoli said. “The Abd el Kader fellowship is an opportunity to understand the complexity of the world through a spiritual lens that contributes to human rights discourse and application.”
Associate Dean of External Affairs Elizabeth Halpin added to Bartoli’s description of the fellowship in an email.
“The Fellowship was created in partnership with the William and Mary Greve Foundation and The Abd el Kader Project,” Halpin said. “The Emir Abd el Kader Fellowship aims at promoting Emir Abd el Kader’s lived Islam, and, indirectly, that of other like-minded Muslims: universalists with a religious identity. The Fellow will serve as a missionary for Abd el Kader’s message, reviving his life and spiritual legacy, and become a catalyst of change within the domestic and global narrative on Islam.”
Halpin agreed with Bartoli that Mirghahari is an ideal candidate.
“Moe is an alumnus who truly bleeds blue for Seton Hall. He has been instrumental in the past in giving Seton Hall University access to government insiders. His experience in the Middle East, with U.S. national security and his rolodex of important people in government circles give him an interesting perspective on our national narrative on Islam and how we could use the example of the Emir toward greater counter-terrorism success,” she said.
Mirghahari, who graduated from Seton Hall with an undergraduate degree in Communications in 2002 and with his graduate degree in Corporate in Public Communications in 2004, developed an interest in holding a government position after the September 11 attacks.
“I had not been a diplomacy student,” Mirghahari said via telephone. “I wanted to help after the attacks. I saw what had happened and I wanted to help as much as I could.”
From his desire to help, Mirghahari has had positions in the Department of Defense and as the Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
“I worked for 13 years for the Department of Defense,” Mirghahari said. “Next I had a presidential appointment under President Obama as the Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for one year. It was an incredible opportunity.”
Mirghahari mentioned that the position featured elements of security and interpersonal experiences.
“Millions of people come through airports each day. During my employment, the Belgium and Turkey bombings took place. We needed to find ways that protected the passengers and gave them comfortable experiences,” Mirghahari said.
Mirghahari returned to Seton Hall with new experiences under his belt and the roots that he has.
While here at SHU, he was employed by the marketing office of the Athletic Department from 1998 until 2004.
Associate Athletics Director Jim Semerad recalls the experiences that he had with Mirghahari during their time together both as students and employees of the Athletic Department.
“I’ve known Mohamad since I was an undergraduate student here at Seton Hall in 2003,” Semerad wrote in an email. “At the time, I was employed in a work-study position within the Athletics Ticket Office and Mohamad was a graduate assistant in the Athletics Department. Mohamad mentored me and helped me realize very early on about the importance of giving back to the University whenever possible.”
Semerad mentioned the pride that Mirghahari has in being an alumnus of the University.
“He helped establish a student ‘6th Man Club’ which promoted student attendance for all men’s and women’s basketball games,” Semerad said. “After he graduated, Mohamad continued to regularly attend athletics events, especially basketball games, even making the eight-hour round trip commute from Washington, D.C. to the Prudential Center. He was instrumental in securing TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger to speak to the School of Diplomacy in 2016.”
Semerad mentioned that Mirghahari has given back to the SHU community since graduation and that he believes he will continue to make contributions.
“He has also used his expertise within the government to speak to student-athletes about the important of personal and cyber security,” he said. “I was not shocked at all when I found out that Mohamad was named as the inaugural Abd el Kader Fellow. This will continue his many years of service back to the University which he loves so much.”
The fellowship will allow Mirghahari to work with diplomacy students in a special way.
Bartoli explained further what his role will be with the students.
“Mr. Mirghahari will be on campus regularly and will lead a team of students engaging with an action-research project in Washington. He will not teach a traditional 14 weeks course. Rather he will interact with students in small teams and in open workshops,” Bartoli said. “He will also participate in the class of other professors presenting the insights emerging from the Emir Abd el Kader’s life. One of these courses is the ‘Religion, Law and War’ course that I teach this semester where the figure of the Emir Abd el Kader is studied.”
One of the students that Mirghahari is working with, Michelle Perez, who is a 2018 Diplomacy and International Relations Master of Arts Candidate, shared her thoughts in an email interview about the kind of experiences she has been having with the program.
“I think we can all agree that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because as graduate students, we are able to contribute substantively to the work of peace negotiations in the State Department,” she wrote. “We have been tasked with extensive research on the Emir Abd el-Kader and previously failed Taliban-U.S. relations and negotiations, in an effort to understand them. Our purpose is to take what we have understood and we will hopefully bring new and creative suggestions to the Diplomats prepared for new negotiations.
“We are fortunate to be sharing our knowledge and theory from our Art and Science of Negotiations course this semester, outside of the classroom; this is what makes this work so exciting! I look forward to our team successfully presenting our work to the State Department; we have a lot of work cut out for us, but our world needs us present and enthusiastically prepared.”
Mirghahari expressed his excitement for the opportunity that he is able to give the students he is working with.
“The fellowship is unique and what’s so unique and exciting is that it is a real-world problem we are examining,” he said. “We are cabineting an issue about the Taliban associations. The students are going to be able to travel to Washington, D.C. to discuss their findings. How many schools can get direct access to something like that?”
Kaitlyn Quinn can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.