From the mountains to the sea to BYU’s Tanner building, Lina Abdallah is always searching for new ways to see the world and the people who live in it. She attributes much of this desire to the time she spent at the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics at the BYU Marriott School of Business—an experience that led her to work for the World Bank, first in the West Bank and Gaza country office, and more recently in Jordan.
As a lover of the ocean, Abdallah is an avid and experienced scuba diver. Before COVID-19 led to travel restrictions, she would often spend her weekends diving in the Red Sea, just three and a half hours from where she lives in Amman, Jordan. She has also dived in the waters off the coast of Africa, Southeast Asia, Lebanon, and Tunisia. “Water makes up 71 percent of our earth,” says Abdallah. “We need to explore it.”
Diving isn’t the only activity that has encouraged Abdallah to look at the world from a different perspective. Since her first week at BYU, she has enjoyed hiking. “My first hike ever was actually up Y Mountain,” she says. “It was such a big deal to me.” To her, the activity was an informal student orientation and an opportunity to make new friends.
Students weren’t the only people Abdallah connected with at BYU. She recalls the humility that professors showed in the way they interacted with their students. “The faculty at the Romney Institute were amazing,” says Abdallah. “I would address professors, and they would say, ‘Oh, please, call me by my first name.’ These are top-level professors.”
After Abdallah graduated from BYU Marriott with her MPA in 2003, she expanded her network of connections from BYU across the world to countries such as Egypt, Iraq, and Kuwait. The relationships Abdallah developed with many people in the Middle East have resulted from the projects she has worked on in fragile and conflict-affected areas.
One project Abdallah recalls as being particularly impactful was being part of a team researching the economic and social impact of ISIS and the Syrian conflict in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. While visiting the region, she and her colleagues worked near refugees and internally displaced persons. The understanding she gained through that project has motivated and encouraged Abdallah to continue to serve those in needs, with a hope that she can help make their lives better.
Today, working as a senior urban specialist who coordinates the urban development, resilience, and municipal services program in Jordan, Abdallah continues to give back to the community and serve others, just as she received service at BYU. She is currently working with municipalities hosting 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Jordan; Abdallah is also a proponent of supporting youth empowerment. “My experience at BYU and particularly the Romney Institute MPA program was a life changer for me,” says Abdallah. “My experience opened my eyes to community service.”
The experience of working at the World Bank and serving communities across the world is an opportunity Abdallah attributes to her professors at the Romney Institute. “I owe my whole career to the trust the professors had in me,” she says. “I want them to know that their efforts and their belief in me has not gone to waste—I’m actually using everything that I’ve learned, whether professionally or nonprofessionally, in my life.”