Iowa State University's only Arabic professor, Ghinwa Alameen, was forced to abruptly stop teaching her classes during the middle of the semester due to the failure of the United States Immigration Services to re-issue her work permit on time.
When her students found out she would have to stop teaching, they stepped up and began contacting university officials and state and national legislators to resolve the issue, and after weeks of fighting to reinstate their professor, Alameen said she was just notified on Wednesday that she had been approved.
"Her work at Iowa State University is incredibly important, and it is vital that she be allowed to return to work as soon as possible," said senior Peter Benzoni, who led the student efforts to contact government officials.
Alameen has worked at ISU for the past eight years after moving here from Syria. She reapplied for her work permit in February, a routine process that normally takes two to three months.
"I did not expect it to happen because it had taken eight months. It was extremely late," Alameen said. "When I saw the approval notice, I was extremely excited to get back to my classes."
Alameen had been forced to suspend teaching on Sept. 30, and Benzoni said the disruption caused significant upheaval in the ISU Arabic program, prompting several students to drop Arabic altogether and threatening his and other students' applications to graduate in May.
"Everyone in the class really appreciates her," Benzoni said. "We care about the impact she has on us."
Since Alameen stopped teaching, the university rushed to find a replacement, but Benzoni said the quality of the classes had dropped, adding its not the fault of the new professor because she had no formal teaching background.
"She wasn't prepared for the task at hand," Benzoni said.
"Whenever you have classes change in professor in the middle of the semester, it changes the style and teaching method," Alameen said.
To address this issue, ISU Arabic students decided to take action to urge the expedition of her work permit renewal by drafting a letter with nearly 100 signatures that was hand delivered to ISU administration and mailed to state and national legislators.
Benzoni said Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst's offices were the most helpful in working to resolve the issue, both of which contacted Immigration Services to address the renewal of Alameen's work permit. Alameen said Immigration Services never provided a reason why her work permit was delayed in being renewed.
"I am so honored and touched by my students' support and effort to help me get back to teaching," Alameen said "Nothing is more fulfilling to an educator than to feel appreciated by her students."
Benzoni said students need Alameen back in the classroom to create consistency, especially because Arabic is such a complicated language.
"Arabic is a challenging language to teach," Alameen said. "It's the lack of teaching materials that target language learners."
Alameen said there are only a handful of textbooks created to teach Arabic, so she created from scratch about 50 percent of her classroom materials.
Although Alameen has received notice of her work permit approval, she still has to wait until she gets the paperwork before she can begin teaching again, which she expects will come within the next week.
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