LAU Chat: Hanadi Chehabeddine

Why did you choose to study at LAU?

I was drawn to the American system of education and the programs LAU offered. I knew I wanted to work in advertising. LAU only offered a minor in Advertising, so I chose Communication Arts, Radio/TV and Film and graduated with my BA in 1998.

How did you start doing the bridge-building work you do now?

When I came to the U.S., I had children and had to be home frequently.  As a result, I ended up watching a lot of TV. When I saw how Muslims were portrayed, I got the idea about speaking up as a Muslim. I had previously done similar projects in the Middle East, mainly to empower the Muslim youth to be who they are, to share their experiences, and not to limit the dialogue on Islam to just Muslim scholars. I started training with the Islamic Research Group, a Minnesota-based non-profit that offers education about Islam and fosters dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. I got certified by IRG and started speaking in schools and in community centers.

How has your work been received?

In May, I received the Human Rights Award from my city, Eden Prairie, MN, for my efforts to dismantle misconceptions about Islam and Muslims, and for building bridges of unity. I got a letter from my Congressman Erik Paulsen congratulating me on the award and offering help. When an attack happens on a global level, I reach out to people and say, ‘if you have questions please contact me.’  People appreciate the fact that I come forward, rather than them coming to me. Muslims cannot afford to be silent, and cannot afford to be intimidated either. We do not hear enough Muslims speaking positively about their religion and their experiences.

How did LAU help you in your career path?

The encouragement I received from my professors, namely Dr. Dima Dabbous, had an everlasting effect on me. A professor saying the right things at the right time can really be a future for that person.

A New Way to Give: IRA Rollover Investments

A New Way to Give: IRA Rollover Investments

Businessman holding seedling

By Atty. Ron Cruikshank

As I’ve tried to emphasize in my previous two articles, planned giving primarily means smart giving, and smart giving definitely is for everyone, not just the wealthy.  In this vein, we’ve already reviewed the importance of wills and estate planning, and we’ve discussed non-cash gifts such as real estate, artwork, collectables and other items of value.

The end of 2015 brought some more news for those who want to give in smart ways. On December 18, the U.S. Congress passed a bill that makes permanent the IRA Charitable Rollover.

Despite what you may have heard, the “rollover” is not complicated, and it isn’t just for the wealthy.  For those of you who have an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), here are the quick facts:

Once you reach age 70½, you must withdraw a federally mandated amount (a Minimum Required Distribution) from your IRA every year.  This amount then becomes taxable as income.

If you don’t need this money, you can avoid paying income taxes on it by designating that the Minimum Required Distribution (up to $100,000) be sent directly from your IRA to your favorite charitable organization (such as Lebanese American University).

It’s that simple.  But, I also want you to understand that you do not get a charitable tax deduction on an IRA Charitable Rollover.  Instead, your tax benefit comes from not having to pay income tax on the Minimum Required Distribution.

As is the case with most planned gifts, it’s wise to involve your attorney, tax consultant or IRA provider in your plans for making an IRA Charitable Rollover.  The LAU Development Office can give you additional information, as well.  Please also keep in mind that IRA rollovers typically take a few weeks.  So, plan ahead – particularly if you’re intending to make a year-end gift.

Two final reminders:

It’s always a good idea to alert the recipient charity that your IRA rollover distribution is coming.

Be certain that the charitable institution you’re supporting issues you a formal gift receipt.  You may need this for the IRS.

Ron Cruikshank is of counsel with Choate & Seletski.  He is a former trustee of LAU and a current member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World.

A Blue Badge: LAU student gets inside look at Lebanese diplomacy

Fourth-year student Wadih Khnaizir

Fourth-year student Wadih Khnaizir got a front row seat to the corridors of power this summer.  As one of five interns at the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations, he was an integral member of the team; attending meetings, preparing briefings, and conducting research.

“I thought I’d mostly be watching and learning, but I actually get to participate in the diplomatic process,” said the finance major.

Press, Protocol, and Communication Officer Katia Badr runs the internship program at the mission.  

“I was attracted by Wadih’s personality and his distinct sense of responsibility and professionalism,” she said.  Two LAU graduates, Melissa Abdallah and Joelle El Sawalhi, have also interned at the mission while pursuing their masters’ degrees.

Khnaizir was no stranger to the United Nations, having participated in LAU’s Model UN program for four years, and serving as a member of the senior staff during the university’s two Global Model UN conferences in New York earlier this year.  But working for his country’s UN outpost gave him an entirely new perspective.

One remarkable experience, he recalls, was attending the Security Council elections for its five non-permanent seats: “There was tension for the European seat because neither the Netherlands nor Italy got the votes needed to win. In the end, they took an unprecedented decision to split the two-year term. Witnessing the moment when the ambassadors shook hands and made that compromise was something I’ll never forget.”

Interns at the mission are given the opportunity to select an area to focus on, such as peacekeeping or refugees, and work closely with the advisor in that area. They are given a UN badge that allows them to move freely around the Secretariat building, and are asked to attend meetings related to their focus, and report back.

“You get to have a voice and play a part in whatever they are doing,” Khnaizir said.

Lebanon’s Permanent Representative H.E. Mr. Nawaf Salam interacts with the interns, passing by to check on their work. He urges them to attend all of the UN meetings Lebanon is participating in. Interns are also encouraged to attend receptions, where they can rub elbows with diplomats from all over the world.

Thanks to LAU’s award-winning MUN program, students come to the internship well prepared. “When I go into a committee, I know how many members are going to be there, I know who the veto powers are in the Council, and I’m familiar with many of the UN resolutions,” adds Khnaizir.

As for a career in the field of diplomacy, he’s still deciding.  But he knows his LAU Model UN experience, coupled with a hands-on internship in New York, will giving him the tools to succeed, no matter what path he chooses.

Beirut meets the Bayou at LAU NY

Beirut on the Bayou

Seventeen-year-old Habib Shwayri arrived at the Port of New York in 1902 with $20 in his pocket.  A little more than six months later, he had paid off the mortgage to his family’s home back in Lebanon. His story, and that of many immigrants to the U.S., was the topic of conversation at LAU NY on July 27, when the Academic Center welcomed Lebanese author Raif Shwayri, Habib’s grandson, for a discussion of his new book, “Beirut on the Bayou: Alfred Nicola, Louisiana, and the Making of Modern Lebanon,” led by New York-based author and scholar Linda K. Jacobs.

Raif described with wonderment his grandfather’s journey to the U.S., where officials gave him the name “Alfred Nicola,” the 18 years his grandfather spent peddling in New Orleans.

“In Raif’s book, we learn that the Syrian peddler at the turn of the 19th Century was often despised and depicted as ‘the scum of the Levant’,” said Lina Beydoun, LAU NY Academic Executive Director, as she kicked off the evening event. “Raif counters this view by narrating the success story of his grandfather. It is the story of millions of immigrants, like my parents, who sought economic betterment in Sierra Leone. Alfred Nicola’s story is our story too.”

Raif’s ancestors worked in Lebanon’s booming silk industry.  “When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, you could reach the outside world in no time,” he said. “So the French began getting their silk from the Chinese, the Japanese, and the economy in Lebanon died out.”

Wealthy families were forced to look for ways to maintain their lifestyles. And thus, Alfred Nicola set off in search of economic opportunity.

According to Jacobs, who documented the Syrian Colony of Lower Manhattan in her book “Strangers in the West,” many became peddlers because the trade was lucrative and required little training.

“At that time, factory workers earned about $5 per week. A peddler could earn from $25-50 a week,” she said.

When Alfred Nicola eventually returned to Lebanon, he invested his earnings in real estate and died a wealthy man in 1956. Raif’s father Nadim used his inheritance to start Al-Kafaàt Foundation, a non-profit organization with the goal of educating children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as those with disabilities. Since 2010, the foundation has partnered with SUNY to develop higher education initiatives.

This event was co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Lebanon in New York, SUNY Press, and SUNY Global.