Hisham Elseweifi has the ability to find anything interesting.
“As a child, this presented as an almost obnoxious degree of curiosity,” he said. “My father encouraged this quality in me. I remember sitting with him every night as I’d ask him what seemed like hundreds of questions, ranging from human anatomy to ancient history. Not only did my father teach me the value of asking questions, but he taught me how to effectively formulate a question. This was the foundation for my love of learning.”
Unfortunately, due to family issues, Elseweifi did not excel in school. Instead, he found other ways to satisfy his curiosity.
“Throughout high school, I spent a lot of time reading about psychology and philosophy in an effort to better understand my situation and learn how I could ensure it would not repeat itself when I start a family,” he said. “I only began to place a high level of importance on academics shortly after I started teaching myself guitar and piano. I became almost obsessed with playing music. In my senior year of high school, we were assigned a research paper on a topic of our choice, and I decided to write on the relationship between music and our brain. This assignment sparked my appreciation for academics. From that moment, I vowed that I would not let my hardships be for nothing.”
With a renewed interested in school, Elseweifi began attending College of DuPage and joined the Living Leadership Program, which helped him identify his strengths and areas for improvement. This led to his involvement in the Global Exchange Program and a memorable presentation featuring three speakers from Africa. They discussed their activism that targeted injustices such as poverty and corruption.
“One of my questions to the speaker from Zimbabwe, Nyasha, sparked a deep discussion regarding the limitations, presented by the government, of protesting in public and via social media due to the harsh consequences,” he said. “This entire event left a lasting impression on my views of effective leadership as well as current events around the world. Every time I think of the word ‘leadership,’ I view trust, boldness, compassion and creativity as fundamental elements. I have been strongly encouraged ever since to make myself aware of and understand the current political and social conflicts in other nations.”
Unfortunately, his first semester at COD was difficult due to the combination of his family’s ongoing issues and his studies. He decided to take a semester off and then moved with his family to Egypt. But Elseweifi challenged himself to re-enroll at COD from 5,000 miles away.
“Living in Egypt was one of the most important times in my life,” he said. “I met my Ukrainian step-family for first time, and at one point I was not sure if I would move to Germany to be near family, stay in Egypt or return to the U.S. I was finally encouraged to return to the U.S. because of the high value placed on a U.S. education and on College of DuPage.”
When faced a pandemic that forced everyone to learn remotely, Elseweifi decided to get involved as much as possible and create a sense of community at COD.
“Being online was so unfamiliar to all of us. No one expected it, and it was hard for students who needed strength in developing connections with other students,” he said.
Elseweifi became president of the Honors Student Advisory Committee, which launched strategies to bring the honors community together, encourage students to join the Honors Program, offer informational resources to all students and organize fundraisers. He also presented at the Illinois Community College Faculty Association Conference and at the Honors Council of the Illinois Region Student Symposium.
His other involvement included serving as vice president of the Philosophy Club; reviving the Mental Health Awareness Team, an organization tasked with raising mental health awareness and providing resources to students and staff; serving as the preparation leader of the Math Team; and becoming a New Student Orientation leader. He also works in the College’s Learning Commons as a professional tutor for a variety of subjects, including math, chemistry, physics, biology and psychology.
“Even when I am helping a student in a developmental math class, I see it as an opportunity to share the joy of math—or at least make them hate it a little less,” he said. “In those situations, I am tasked with finding various ways to explain concepts that are intuitive to me. This is not only extremely challenging, but it is invaluable to me as both a teacher and a student. As a result, I gain a deeper and richer understanding of these concepts and how they are all connected.”
College of DuPage gave me the opportunities to engage in my intellectual interests and explore my passions.
He also loves other languages and studies them whenever he can. These include German, Russian, Spanish and Arabic.
In graduating with his Associate in Science degree, Elseweifi earned high honors and was named an outstanding graduate finalist. His goal is to transfer and pursue a dual degree in electrical engineering and neuroscience.
He is thankful that his time at COD engaged his natural curiosity and allowed him to pursue academic excellence.
“I have so many dreams,” he said. “I dream to make a difference in people’s lives, and I love to see people overcome challenges. I want to be a role model to my younger step-sister. I want to continue to pursue the intellectual drive that I have. I want to start a family and provide them with stability and security.
“Every major obstacle that I came up against had the opposite effect than what you would think. They pushed me to work harder, and I knew I was not letting all of my struggles be for nothing. College of DuPage gave me the opportunities to engage in my intellectual interests and explore my passions.”