Nada Al-Thawr ’19

Photo of Nada Al-Thawr ’19

Name: Nada Al-Thawr ’19

Hometown: Sana'a, Yemen

Academics: computer science and international relations double major

Campus involvement: I am co-chair of the Arab Student Union, which is a political, activist and cultural organization that provides a platform to empower and represent Arab voices on campus. To be an influential part of this group has been such an impactful experience.

My junior year, I was the co-chair of HackHolyoke, one of the largest student-led events on our campus.

I have also been part of ISOC, the International Student Organizing Committee, which holds a very special place in my heart. Coming to campus, I was warmly welcomed and taken care of by other international students who have walked in my shoes and understood homesickness better than anyone else. ISOC provides resources, events and advocacy for our beloved international students, and amplifies those voices and stories on our campus.

A place or experience you will miss at Mount Holyoke: A place I will miss the most is the library. Our beautiful, Hogwarts-like, maze-like library has witnessed countless all-nighters as well as beautiful moments with friends. An experience I will miss is being surrounded by such a warm, vibrant and supportive community, which has helped me grow in ways I never thought were possible.  

Proudest accomplishment at Mount Holyoke: My proudest accomplishment at Mount Holyoke has been organizing HackHolyoke, the first hackathon in the country to have more female-identifying participants than male. Being part of this hackathon taught me so much about patience, hard work and event planning. It brought together hundreds of hackers from all around the country and was one of the biggest events I have ever organized. I learned so much about managing teams and thinking about inclusivity in technology. Our goal with HackHolyoke was to draw people who are not often represented in tech and would otherwise not get involved. We ended up having people join us from all different fields and backgrounds and our hackers built incredible projects that benefit their communities and solved global problems. In taking on such a powerful leadership position, I was able to use my experience to empower other women of color in technology.

How a close connection with a faculty member has shaped you: My dear advisor, Jon Western, the Carol Hoffmann Collins ’63 Professor of International Relations, has been such a supportive figure for my personal and academic growth. He has always believed in me and provided me with the most valuable advice when I needed it most.

My first encounter with him was during my sophomore year when he was the first professor to support my independent study, “Exploring the Yemeni War Through the Eyes of Women,” even given my limited research experience. He provided me with the resources and guidance that I needed to study and research the topics that mattered most to me. Ever since, he has continued to push me to succeed — and to supply me with Chef Jeff cookies, which he usually has outside of his office.

Course that surprised you, or that you thought you might not like: I am currently taking Transitional Justice with Andy Reiter, associate professor in politics. This course has been beyond incredible in giving me the tools and knowledge necessary to become a power of change for my home country. In shifting my focus from pointlessly grieving over the war in Yemen to actively planning for future transitional justice measures for post-conflict Yemen, the class has helped me shape what I aspire to do academically and professionally.

One of my favorite experiences in this class was a simulation we held in which I was part of the authoritative political party that refused any form of vetting or reforms, and I did a great job in being a disruptive force in our “country of Mount Holyoke.” I continue to feel challenged during our weekly meetings, and learn so much from his knowledge, my classmates’ discussions and the interesting assigned readings.

Best takeaway from internship or research experiences: Always ask questions. You are undertaking these experiences to learn and grow, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk to the people you work with.

Favorite Five College experience: Joining a research group during my senior fall semester that worked on genetic programming in artificial intelligence and computational evolution. I worked alongside graduate students and learned so much about how similar nature is to computing and how we can take lessons from evolution to build AI systems that better simulate real-life applications. I was also supported by my Hampshire professor, Lee Spector, to pursue my passion for international relations, conflict resolution and artificial intelligence. With him, I used algorithmic game theory to simulate conflict, and multi-agent systems to explore if we can resolve conflict by using artificial intelligence.

How Mount Holyoke has shaped your global outlook: Mount Holyoke taught me that the world is so big and so small at the same time. It has shown me that the world is full of people with a multitude of different experiences and backgrounds. But no matter what, you always have at least one thing in common, so always try to find the one thing that will bring you together. Being here has taught me that I still have so much to learn about the world and to always keep an open mind and heart to changing my opinions and perspectives. I have met people from all over the world and learned so much about other cultures, histories, struggles and beauties.

Future plans: I am excited to be working as a software engineer consultant at Macedon Technologies after graduation. I will be moving to the Washington, D.C., area, which is perfect for me, so I can continue to nourish my international relations and politics interests while working in technology.

Mount Holyoke has been a home away from home, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to join such a beautiful community that nourished my soul and mind to become who I am today.