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A 28-year-old Emirati woman just became the first recipient of a new scholarship, and she has a lot of reasons to celebrate.
Rana Al Mutwa won the first-ever University of Oxford-Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Graduate Scholarship, which is jointly funded by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation and Oxford University.
The scholarship, which will be awarded annually to a citizen of one of the Arab League member states, covers tuition and living expenses for one graduate student.
When Rana heads to Oxford this academic year, she will pursue her doctorate in Middle Eastern studies with a focus on Emirati culture.
When she heard the news, the winner was surprised.
"I was really shocked," she said, speaking to The National. "It was the first year they had the scholarship, so I had never heard of it and I just got this email and I was really happy because I'm from Dubai and I really admire Sheikh Mohammed so having his name and also Oxford on the scholarship — my scholarship — made me really happy."
Rana was one of 60 candidates considered for the award, which is just one of the foundation's many initiatives.
Founded in 2007, the foundation's mission is to promote and enhance knowledge and personal development.
Ahlam Al Hosani, the foundation's senior officer of human capital, spoke about the program: "We're trying to improve education, knowledge and development for all of humanity," he said. "Some of our activities are financing or encouraging basic education for thousands of people, and others are for the elite scholars. We're translating Sheikh Mohammed's vision of knowledge and development into practical things."
The winner of the scholarship already is quite an accomplished academic. She already has two masters degrees: one in international affairs from Columbia University and a second in public policy from the University of Tokyo. She also has a bachelor's degree in business administration from the American University in Dubai.
Her most recent post had her teaching Emirati studies as an adjunct professor at Dubai's Zayed University, which is the same subject she will study at Oxford.
"(There has been) a lot of work about the region that has been written from outsiders and a lot of their work is very flawed and biased," she said. "There is a bit of work from people from the inside, but I have also been disappointed with that work because it's not really very analytical."
"There is so much that hasn't been studied, for example, people think of the Gulf citizens as monolithic, like we are only one culture and homogenous and so on, but actually, that is not true," she continued. "The Gulf has been always cosmopolitan. It's not just a new thing. The Gulf states had ports and they used to trade with India and East Africa and so on and these cultures have influenced our culture. There is a lot of interesting research that can be done in that field."
Congratulations to this stellar student!