Mohamed Shaker: The importance of history

Mohamed Shaker is both an international student and an Oregonian. Between being born in Singapore and graduating from high school in the United Arab Emirates, he attended elementary and middle school in Beaverton.

He says coming back to Oregon to pursue higher education was not a difficult decision.


“My brother was here,” he explains. “So I thought I would come and try out life here again, and I’m really glad I did.”

With his basic sciences classes completed, Shaker began studying in the pre-pharmacy program at Oregon State right away, but he found himself struggling in science classes. During late-night study sessions, he started to wonder if he was following the right path. Shaker says he’s always had an interest in the humanities, so in the spring term of his freshman year, he transferred to the College of Liberal Arts, where he ended up majoring in history.

Shaker is also a member of the University Honors College and wrote his senior thesis about Iraqi history, a subject close to his heart. His research specifically covered Shia political theology in the mid-twentieth century. Shaker says he wanted to study Iraq and the Middle East because that’s where his father is from.

“The 20th century Middle East is something I’ve always been interested in,” he says.

“What stands out the most about Mohamed is his innate sense of social justice,” says Jon Katz, professor of Middle Eastern history. “His concern for what is right permeates his studies and outlook on life. He presents himself without a hint of self-righteousness, which makes his reasoned arguments all the more authoritative.”While he studied his father’s heritage in the classroom, Shaker — whose mother is from Singapore — decided to honor her background by getting involved with the Asian and Pacific Cultural Center (APCC). He started out working in the center’s front office, and from there, became a student leadership liaison.


“I appreciated that the Asian and Pacific Cultural Center has an emphasis on the sort of general diversity and multicultural work that needs to happen on a campus like this and on local, national and global issues of importance,” Shaker says.

Through the APCC, Shaker has coordinated events including a multicultural film series and a memorial for the centennial of the Armenian genocide.

His supervisor at the APCC, Reagan Le, says Shaker’s sense of humor and dedication to multiculturalism has done much for the campus community.

“Mohamed is an incredibly bright, scholarly student who through his contagious laugh brings joy and laughter to others,” Le says. “His laugh truly and literally fills up the APCC and just brings such liveliness and energy to the APCC. He’s an intellect who can confidently articulate academic knowledge.”

Shaker has applied to graduate schools in the United Kingdom and says he wants to continue to study history in some capacity, although he’s unsure about continuing to specialize in Iraqi history.

“There are a lot of options in front of me,” he says. “I need some time to really think about them and do some individual research before I plunge into a graduate program.”

Shaker sees himself teaching in the future.

“I think it’s important work,” he says. “I think it’s work that has meaning and purpose, and that’s what I want to do.”

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