Palestinian Clinton Scholar Graduating from Colorado State May 10 Aspires to Lead, Help in Peace Process

Rabi Al-Tatari, one of the nation’s Clinton Scholars, will graduate with a MBA from Colorado State University’s College of Business May 10.

The Clinton Scholars Program is a unique government scholarship aimed at encouraging social and economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and strengthening American-Palestinian relations. It was put in place during the summer of 2000, before the intifada in the Middle East began. By the end of this year, a total of 93 Clinton Scholars will be enrolled in master’s degrees programs across the United States.

Al-Tatari, one of the early scholarship recipients, chose to study for his MBA to bring new ideas and advancement to his profession as a dental equipment salesman in Ramallah. Like many Clinton Scholars, he plans to use the knowledge he has gained at Colorado State not only to further his career, but to expand the knowledge of the Palestinian business community.

"People in my country don’t have many educational alternatives," said Al-Tatari. "I feel it’s my responsibility not only to implement what I’ve learned at Colorado State on a personal level, but also in my community. I plan to share what I’ve learned with individuals who haven’t had the same educational opportunities."

Al-Tatari, who earned his bachelor’s degree in dentistry from a university in Jordan, was offered the chance to study in America and in Australia. He chose America in order to be an ambassador for his country. He started a Palestinian student organization at Colorado State for anyone interested in learning more about his culture.

"I wanted to show the people of America who we are," said Al-Tatari. "We are good people who want peace just as much as anyone. We want a better life for our children."

As much as Al-Tatari has taught his new American friends and colleagues about his culture, he found that he also had something to learn about the culture of his host country.

"When I went back to Ramallah last summer, everyone asked me what America was like," he said. "There’s an impression that American society is violent, dangerous, full of drug addicts. I told everyone how kind the people were and that my experiences had all been positive."

One of Al-Tatari’s favorite classes at Colorado State was the capstone MBA class focusing on strategic management. Students chose a corporation and put themselves in the role of CEO. They then analyzed a variety of business models and selected a distinct model for their company.

"Rabi’s ability to understand our culture and share his culture with students from several different countries was a wonderfully valuable trait," said Yolanda Sarason, assistant professor of management at Colorado State. "He was open to American business ideas and yet able to share his perspective on international business because of his unique experiences."

Because of unrest in the Middle East, Al-Tatari knows he’s not going to be able to implement his business knowledge in the immediate future. He would like to stay in the U.S. for at least another six months to put into practice what he’s learned in the classroom. He’s interested in the field of finance and hopes to secure an internship before he returns to Palestine. Staying in the U.S. permanently has never been an option in Al-Tatari’s mind. Going back to Palestine is part of his vision of what he’d like to become beyond the business world.

"I have aspirations of being more than a business man," he said. "I’d like to use my experience in America, which has expanded my world, to improve my community and to assist in working toward peace. I want to be a role model and leader for the Palestinian people."