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Featured: Taha Hameduddin

For Taha Hameduddin, graduate assistant at UGA’s Archway Partnership, service is about helping others in need. Through his work with Archway, Taha has focused on economic and community development, striving to engage communities and public institutions in addressing their unique issues.

What is your major/minor?
I’m currently pursuing my master’s in public administration from UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs. I’ll be graduating with a dual concentration in public management and nonprofit administration in May 2014.

If you are a graduate student, please list previous degrees and concentrations.
I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri, where I earned a bachelor’s in economics, a bachelor’s in statistics, and a minor in classics.

I can’t single out one place to call my hometown. I grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and spent some years in my native Hyderabad, India before moving to Columbia, Missouri for my undergraduate degree. For me, all those places have been my home at some point in time, and still remain home in some sense.

What does service mean to you?
Service is leaving a place of comfort and engaging with your surroundings. Too often, it is easy to indulge in our immediate comforts and forget about the neighbor that goes hungry, the beggar that sleeps out in the cold and other forms of suffering. To me, service is “doing good” and preventing what causes harm wherever possible.

Why do you serve?
On one level, working with the Archway Partnership allows me to connect what I study in my public administration classes to the real world. In fact, at times a particular Archway Partnership project has influenced my class choices because it fits so well with what I do as a graduate assistant. And the relationship is not one way either. My experience at the Archway Partnership has exposed me to real-time economic and community development issues that have motivated me to search for holistic solutions. It also has significantly informed my research interests and helped me facilitate class discussions.

On another level, serving at the Archway Partnership allows me to witness a part of the university mission that I think many students either don’t appreciate, or worse, don’t recognize. Doing so has broadened my horizons, and through the experience I have built life-long relationships with people who are committed to public service.

What made you want to get involved in service at UGA?
When I was looking for assistantship opportunities to fund my graduate education at UGA, I was heavily drawn to the Archway Partnership because of its unique community engagement model. At a time when public institutions and land-grant universities in particular are being forced to show the value of their efforts, Archway’s engagement philosophy utilizes a bottom-up approach to economic and community development, making it more sustainable and conducive to success. The process of engaging in locally identified issues departs from dictating typecast solutions to unique community issues.

As a student of public administration, I am intimately interested in the role public institutions play in developing norms and expectations of citizenship and how effective policy is implemented. I wanted to be a part of public service and outreach at UGA, which goes beyond research and teaching. As a graduate assistant, I do work that is seminal to UGA’s land-grant mission and connect my classwork to the real world, all while making my graduate education much more affordable. Through public service and outreach, and the Archway Partnership in particular, I’ve had the opportunity to develop my skills in a multitude of ways—many more than if I would have expended my energies elsewhere.

What do you feel has been the greatest benefit of your service at UGA, within the community and in your personal life?
Service has opened my eyes to many different community needs. It may sound trivial, but by working on projects from all around rural Georgia, I’ve developed a greater appreciation of small towns and cities. Having lived most of my life in large metro areas with burgeoning populations, it was natural to be stereotypical, and even a tad dismissive about the experience of small towns and cities. But through my work at Archway, I’ve learned to look beyond a moniker, and consider the fact that people everywhere yearn for the same goals: increasing the quality of life and developing vibrant communities. Moreover, seeing public policy in action provides me with a real-life case study, which informs my academic and other interests.

Why do you feel it is important for students to participate in public service and outreach? How do you benefit from it?
Serving Georgia through UGA can be a unique experience, and being involved with PSO is a perfect way to supplement academic growth with personal growth. Students can develop a host of marketable skills, which they may not necessarily learn in their classrooms. What makes working in PSO special is that it forces you to look beyond yourself and to consider the bigger picture. It can help students discover erstwhile untapped leadership capabilities and contribute to their understanding of the world. The leadership skills they develop during the formative undergraduate and graduate years can become a foundation for successful leadership for the rest of their lives. I would recommend working in public service and outreach for anyone who is evenly mildly interested in public affairs.

What are your plans after graduation?
After I graduate, I plan to purse a doctorate in public administration.

What are your interests and hobbies outside school?
In my free time, I like to watch old TV shows, visit coffee houses and cook. When alone, I also enjoy reading poetry out loud to myself.

Please list any outside-UGA community service you are involved in.
Unfortunately, having a demanding assistantship and a full course schedule makes it difficult to devote the required time and effort to do anything wholeheartedly.

What is your favorite spot in Athens, at UGA or in Georgia? Why?
At UGA, I like to go to the tasteful verandah behind the new Graduate School building. It overlooks the Oconee River, and is a perfect place to relax and listen to the water, whether during the morning or at night. I haven’t been in Athens long enough to prefer a particular ‘spot’, but I do like frequenting the many coffee shops in and around town.

What motivates or inspires you in life?
I am constantly motivated by the experience of self-made people like my father and my mother. Their toils make my trivial problems dissolve away, and push me to discover different ways to honor their living legacy. Being involved in public service and studying public administration has allowed me to do that.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
My father would always tell me to do whatever I wanted, but to be the very best at whatever I chose to do. Even though it took me while to find something I was passionate about and was doubly good at, his words constantly served as motivation to seek and do better.

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