From Liberal Arts to Law – Jomana Qaddour

Jomana Qaddour earned her B.A. from KU in human biology and international studies in 2006.

Jomana Qaddour
Jomana Qaddour works for the Brookings Institution and the non-profit she started with her father, Syria Relief & Development.

What do you do and what’s your current title?

I currently work at the Brookings Institution, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Project on US Relations with the Islamic World. I serve as a Research Assistant and Publications Manager, and I focus on Palestine/Israel, Egypt, and Syria in my capacity as a researcher.

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Jomana Qaddour’s non-profit SRD has distributed more than $9 million of humanitarian aid and has set up four hospitals.

I am also the co-founder and legal counsel for a non-profit organization that my father and I started in November 2011, Syria Relief & Development (SRD). Through our fantastic team based in Jordan and Syria, we have been able to distribute over $9 million dollars’ worth of humanitarian aid. SRD currently has set up 4 hospitals dedicated solely to the medical care of Syrians, and we have distributed food baskets, winter packages, set up flour mills, established child psychological and pediatric care clinics, and also distribute holiday packages for families both inside of Syria and in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. This work has enabled me to help my country of birth, and the country where the majority of my family resides, at a time when most Syrians feel helpless. The truth is, everyone has a moral obligation to leave this world a better state than the way they found it – and for me, assisting my fellow Syrians in a crisis unparalleled in recent history allows me to do that.

Where did you earn your law degree?

I earned my law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law in 2009 with a Certificate in International Trade and Finance.

Where do you live now?

I now live in Washington, DC.

How do you use what you learned as a KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences student in your career?

Your degree is truly what you make of it. Shortly after I graduated from law school, while I was working as a patent attorney, I realized that my true interest was in the future of the Middle East. The Arab Spring had just begun, and both Egypt and Syria were undergoing dramatic changes. I slowly started to become involved in efforts to ameliorate the humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Syria, and found that the best way to do so was to redirect funds from donors to Syria and to advocate for tangible solutions to end the crisis in my home country.  My work with SRD then motivated me to pursue a career in foreign policy, and to push for policy changes that could reflect a better understanding of the Middle East.

From Liberal Arts to Law
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My undergraduate education helped provide me with the necessary background needed to understand the social, political, and economic crises that plagued the Arab world over the past century and how that currently impacts events in the Arab world.

Why law?

I have not pursued a typical legal career. While I did begin by working in the field of intellectual property (enabled by my human biology B.A.), I have now used my legal degree as an enabling tool to help me understand corporate registration, the execution of contracts, and the non-profit tax-exemption process. In addition, my legal education has provided me with the research and writing skills that guide my work as a Middle East policy researcher.

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Jomana Qaddour’s legal education led her down an atypical career path, but it is one she values for the skills and tools it provided.

If you could give current KU students thinking about law school one piece of advice, what would it be?

Make sure you need a law degree to pursue what you want to do. Today, there are many creative graduate degrees available. Very carefully review the programs at schools you want to attend, and make sure that the investment of your time and finances will practically prepare you for the challenges that exist in an increasingly globalized, competitive professional world.

Favorite KU memory?

My favorite KU memory was being in the late Professor Deborah Gerner’s Middle East politics course. It was my favorite class, and she served as a great educator on a variety of levels. Even today, for my work at the Brookings Institution, I recall some of the lessons we learned in her courses. I will always be grateful for her guidance.

Photos courtesy of Jomana Qaddour.