On May 12, 446 Doane University students were set to receive their diplomas at the spring Commencement ceremony at Cassel Open Air Theatre in Crete.
In reality, 445 degrees were handed out because one student was missing.
That student was Majd Kara ’18A.
To understand why Majd could not be at Commencement on this celebratory day, you first need to understand her background. How her coming to America -- and Doane -- quite possibly saved her life.
After growing up in Syria, earning a bachelor’s degree, and establishing a life there, the dangers that the War in Syria presented were too much to overcome.
Each day Majd left for work while she was in Syria, she would hug her mom goodbye. Every day the hugs began to get a little stronger, not knowing if that would be the last hug they would ever get.
There wasn’t a day that went by where Majd didn’t fear for her life while living in Syria during the war. The sound of gunshots became all too common. It was time to risk everything to find a better life.
Majd fled the country a few years ago and ended up in California. She left her family and her life behind, but it was a move she had to make.
After living in California for a short time, Majd came to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she could be reunited with her longtime friend Mohanna Barbar-Askar, who came to America from Syria nearly 15 years ago.
A new city and new life presented plenty of fear and struggles.
"It was extremely hard," Majd said. "But I had no choice. It was a life or death decision."
It was a life or death decision.”Majd Kara ’18A
Thankfully for Majd, learning English wasn’t very difficult for her. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature while she was in Syria.
Majd got a job in Lincoln but was still looking for more. If she could escape a deadly situation, she could do anything, she felt.
Majd heard about Doane’s adult and graduate program offerings and became very interested. In 2016, she made the leap to begin the Master of Arts in Management program, which as she puts, “is much more than just about leadership. It can teach you something about life.”
Majd became very passionate about the program and convinced her now husband, Mohanna, to start the program as well.
“She’s the reason why I started my master’s at Doane,” he said. “I love this university. It has become our home.”
“Doane is so welcoming and inviting,” Majd said. “There are many people at Doane that have impacted my life through my journey.”
Which made the decision Majd had to make for May 12 very difficult.
Majd had passed all of her exams to become a U.S. citizen in the spring. The ceremony in which she would be officially recognized as a U.S. citizen happened to fall -- on all days -- on May 12.
“When I first received the ceremony invitation, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Becoming a U.S. citizen is a great honor but I have also dreamt about getting my master’s degree and receiving my diploma on stage. It was hard to choose between two things that are so important to me but I knew I couldn’t miss the U.S. citizenship ceremony.”
Once Doane received the news, leadership made special plans. At the annual MAM graduation recognition dinner, Doane President Dr. Jacque Carter had a surprise for Majd. As each student was being honored, when Majd was brought up on stage, Dr. Carter had a cap and gown ready for Majd to put on. He then handed out her degree in front of the audience.
“It was a very emotional moment for me,” Majd said. “I was so thankful that they did that.”
At the recognition dinner, Majd was also awarded the Keith Berlage ’96 Memorial Award, presented to a graduate who personifies the determination, perseverance, and courage Keith displayed throughout his life.
“It’s hard to go to another country by yourself, not knowing what to expect. I was very depressed at first but I felt compassion at Doane when I began to share my story. I believe Doane is about the people. They are invested in their students like me.” Majd Kara '18A
While Majd received her master’s degree in May, her education journey at Doane is not over. This summer, she was admitted into the Doctorate of Education program, which she has begun this fall.
Mohanna is on track to graduate with his master’s degree this December.
Information on the Master of Arts in Management program can be found here.