A driving principal behind the academic programs at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business is to cultivate leaders in business committed to living lives of principled achievement. Jay Al-Hashimi, OMBA ’20, has demonstrated those values throughout his time as a William & Mary student and as a result was recently recognized by the state of Georgia’s Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and was accepted into their prestigious Leadership Columbia County program.
The 10-month program is designed to expose business and area leaders to the opportunities and challenges facing the community in addition to promoting and fostering the development of leadership. It’s not the first time Al-Hashimi has received recognition for his leadership abilities. He was unanimously elected as one of two class ambassadors to his Leadership Augusta cohort in addition to receiving nominations to the Leadership Georgia program and the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta’s 2020 100 Most Influential Georgia Muslims list.
For Al-Hashimi, a first generation American born to an Iraqi father and a Scottish mother, the desire to serve as a leader in his local community comes from hearing stories of how his father overcame adversity at an early age.
“My grandfather died from a sudden heart attack when my dad was 13 years old and created within my dad a dire need for immediate leadership in the family as he was the eldest of seven. Hearing his history and how he raised his siblings to achieve greatness was an inspiration for me at an early age,” he explains. “When he came to America and created his own family, my father beautifully raised us to be confident, visionary leaders who could see an opportunity when it presented itself.”
Healing his community through philanthropy
Al-Hashimi has fulfilled his father’s wishes, specifically with his most recent professional endeavor serving as the co-founder and Chief Information Officer of the Shifa Free Clinic based in Georgia.
The mission of the Shifa Free Clinic is to provide mental, physical, and eye health services to some of the most vulnerable adults throughout the local community. Once a month, licensed physicians, nurse practitioners, and technicians offer free clinical appointments and treatments for patients that must meet one of three criteria for eligibility: uninsured, underinsured, or household income is equal to or below 200% below the federal poverty line.
The word “shifa” in Arabic is translated into English to mean “curing or healing,” and an idea for the clinic came to Al-Hashimi when he was in elementary school.
“I recall being at the mosque when I was around nine years old and recognizing there were people in our community who were doctors, nurses, and PhDs. People who were very learned. Yet while they practiced in those fields, there was no free clinic available for people who couldn’t afford to pay for medical services. I recognized there was an opportunity and a need, and I’m proud to have capitalized on that opportunity to open the Shifa Free Clinic,” he said.
A career of diverse lenses
Prior to his work as a co-founding member of the Shifa Free Clinic, Al-Hashimi had a diverse yet rewarding career spanning federal agencies, non-profits, and academia all of which prepared him well for his current role.
He attended the Honors Program at the University of Georgia where in addition to earning his degree in anthropology, he served on the Academic Dishonesty Panel and was President of the Genetics Club. After graduation, he accepted a role with the U.S. Department of Agriculture where he worked in meat quality and poultry processing.
“I investigated hot outbreaks of Listeria monocytogenes and enteric pathogens in warehouses and facilities that produced chicken for consumption,” he explained. “I would take the samples and look at the genetics, biochemistry, and microbiology of the sample swabs to pinpoint where the outbreak was originating.”
Following that experience, Al-Hashimi moved on to a role with the U.S. Forestry Service where he served as a research analyst, and then the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where he worked as a Community Relations Field Officer where he was responsible for liaising with communities affected by natural disasters.
Al-Hashimi then left federal service and joined the Technical College System of Georgia as an adjunct professor primarily teaching adults pursuing their undergraduate degrees. Today, in addition to his executive role with the Shifa Free Clinic he works at the Medical College of Georgia helping to educate the next generation of doctors in the state.
“These experiences are why I was interested in pursuing a graduate degree in business. I work well with diverse groups of people and I like the challenge of looking at situations from different angles or lenses to understand how to address them best,” he said.
Leveraging education for the future
Another motivating factor for Al-Hashimi to pursue a graduate degree in business was that he felt the degree would help his future. William & Mary’s Online Master’s in Business Administration program appealed to him for several reasons. He liked the asynchronous, one-course-at-a-time model and that the professors were scholars devoted to ensuring student success.
“I thrived in the smaller class sizes surrounded by motivated students and professors,” he said. “The whole concept of the Tribe is actually true because it does feel like a home away from home. People in my cohort have become my family members and I expect to have lifelong friends from this program.”
Now close to graduation, Al-Hashimi is reflective of his time in the program. He says that he can tell he thinks differently, easily navigates complex situations, and has an elevated sense of reasoning. He also believes that completing a program from a school with William & Mary’s reputation has given him credibility he wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“I have confidence entering into conversations with people about practically any topic of which I’ve been exposed to and can comfortably deal with ambiguity, especially during a pandemic,” he explained. “William & Mary trained me for that.”
In addition to William & Mary’s Online MBA program, Al-Hashimi has concurrently sought additional educational and leadership experiences. He completed the Atlanta Islamic Speaker’s Bureau Leadership Institute program on civic engagement through which he was trained by Fortune 50 corporate trainers on issues like how to create quality and equity, how to approach uncomfortable conversations, and how to be a servant leader. He’s also currently a fellow through the University of Southern California’s Institute for Digital Civic Culture.
“Through that program, I am learning about how to elevate a narrative through virtual conversations and communities,” he explained. “In a way, it prepared me for the pandemic because I’m learning how to be a leader in virtual spaces.”
One such leadership initiative that he has championed within the William & Mary community was this past spring’s virtual ringing of the bell tradition in which students were encouraged to post videos of themselves ringing any bell available to them during their respective COVID-19 lockdowns as a way to create community despite their geographic separation from campus.
“As a member of the Commencement Policy Committee, we were challenged with the paradigm shift of what does a virtual graduation look like. I already had a tool set ready to go from the University of Southern California primed to then apply it to William & Mary and what a virtual graduation would look like,” he said.
Al-Hashimi is also very involved with the university’s Academic Appeals Committee in which he sits on a panel that reviews cases of students who are looking for an additional review to ensure fairness.
“When I was looking at William & Mary’s online MBA program, I was drawn to the community the school was able to create virtually. The fact there are opportunities available to online students like participating on the Academic Appeals Committee resonated with me and made me feel like I would have a strong connection to campus even though I didn’t live in Williamsburg,” he said.
And he has plans to continue to develop his leadership and academic toolkit further. Al-Hashimi is in the process of applying to master’s in public health programs specializing in bioethics, public health, or education. At the time of publication, he had been offered the Seretean Scholarship at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health for their 2020 Executive MPH program’s applied public health informatics track. He is however, waiting to hear back from several other universities before making a decision.
He says that after he earns a degree in public health, he hopes to go on to earn a doctoral degree and eventually chair an academic program at a university or serve as the dean of a college, or pursue an entrepreneurial path as a venture capitalist. Regardless of what the future holds, he knows he will continue to pursue novel opportunities and be a servant leader within his community in Augusta, Georgia.
“I represent a small segment of my community and despite all those sources of challenges and biases I experienced along the way, I’ve risen as a leader and it is something I’m really proud of,” he said.