Lipscomb Online student balances technology courses with work for United Nations
Logan Butts |
There is no one type of Lipscomb Online student. They attend undergraduate and graduate classes in a variety of subjects throughout not just the country, but the entire world. But even with that distinction, current Lipscomb Online student Osama Alsalman makes for a unique case.
Alsalman works for the United Nations as an Information and Evidence Officer, which means he helps create technology systems that manage international criminal investigations. At the same, he is also working on his Technology Management degree through Lipscomb’s online program while living in Geneva, Switzerland, which is where the UN is based.
“It's a fully online program, and that's very helpful nowadays, especially with my situation of being overseas,” Alsalman said. “So that’s kind of why I went to Lipscomb - the quality of the program, the courses that are offered within this program, and also the flexibility with the course being online.”
The other reason Alsalman went to Lipscomb? A recommendation from his wife Aseel Alkazzaz (’16, ’18), a two-time Lipscomb graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Master of Management degree.
Before moving to the United States, Alsalman was originally from Baghdad, Iraq. During his first year of college, he dropped out to begin work as a translator for the United States Army. He continued work as a military interpreter and cultural adviser for several years.
“I was a combat interpreter going out on patrols with the US Army, helping out with the missions and translating between the US soldiers and the locals,” Alsalman said.
Eventually, Alsalman made the move to the United States thanks to a special immigration visa issued for anyone who worked for the US government in Iraq. But his first stop wasn’t Tennessee, it was Austin, Texas. He spent a little under a year there before heading up to Nashville.
“When I first got to Nashville, I wasn't sure what I was going to do,” Alsalman said. “I found this opportunity also to work with the US Army. But it wasn't in Nashville. It was in Fort Polk, Louisiana.”
Alsalman continued to live in Nashville while commuting all the way to Louisiana where he would meet with and advise soldiers before deployment, teaching them culture courses about Iraq.
“I would walk them through what to do and what not to do in terms of culture and things like that, but also running through roleplay on what to do when the soldiers go on patrols and how to leverage the interpreters and translators to complete their missions,” Alsalman said.
After about a year, he made his way back to Nashville full time, having achieved his goal of making it into the technology sector by joining on with Page One Legal, a small business that deals with legal technology.
Alsalman was familiar with the technical skills needed to work different operating systems and to work with computer programs in general, but gaining the knowledge and skills of the legal technology industry for nearly a decade in Nashville is what led to his current role with the United Nations. The UN reached out to him about a brand new project involving human rights internationally.
“It was just a handful of us who knew about the technology then,” Alsalman said. “It's well-known in the US, but it's kind of like a brand new industry in Europe, and especially with the United Nations. So it made me more excited to join this program and to be the first ones to try to build the legal technology processes within international law.”
Going from a small business in Nashville to working for a massive global organization had its challenges. Even for someone with a background in translation, a potential language barrier of that magnitude can be daunting.
“Not only is it very big, but it's very diverse,” Alsalman said. “You have the employees from all over the world, working in one place. My background is as a translator working with different languages, so that was a challenge that I understood. But luckily, within the United Nations pretty much everyone who works here speaks English. And within the city in Geneva, a lot of people spoke English.”
But Alsalman says any struggles were worth it for an opportunity like this.
“It's also very beneficial to work with these different cultures and people from different areas and different backgrounds,” Alsalman said. “They can add so much, so it's been a great experience.”
Despite extensive experience in the field, Alsalman did not have a degree, which is where Lipscomb Online came into play. In his new role with the UN, he was able to carve out time to pursue a degree.
“Maybe a year or two years ago, I would say it's impossible. I can’t take any courses,” Alsalman said. “But luckily, working with a bigger organization has its benefits. You have a well-structured time when you get to work and when you finish things, you can take some time off for yourself to build things.
“And when I saw that I do have the time, I saw myself able to go back to school and continue my degree. That's when I decided to contact Lipscomb.”