Mass Communications-Magazine Journalism
USF senior, Carmel Delshad, was born in the United States but has family roots that span several Middle Eastern countries – Palestine, Egypt and Iran. In fact, she lived in Egypt until she was four, when her family moved to the small Florida town of Deltona.
A first-generation American with dual Egyptian citizenship, Delshad's upbringing strongly reflects both her Middle Eastern heritage and her American homeland. During her childhood, she attended public school during the day and Quran school in the evening. She ate bagels, nachos and Nutella on pita for lunch, while sharing chicken baryani with family and friends on Friday nights during Ramadan. She loved to watch classic Arabic movies and Kalam Nawaem, an Arabic version of The View, as well as MTV music videos, and PBS Masterpiece Classic remakes of Jane Austen novels.
“Prior to 9-11, I was the ‘cool’ Egyptian girl who brought in papyrus for show and tell,” says Delshad. “But after September 11th, being Middle Eastern was no longer considered ‘exotic’. It was the source of all things evil in the world.”
As a result, the middle and high school years were difficult ones for Delshad. “Never before had I second-guessed my culture, and never before had I been verbally attacked because of my roots.”
A visit back to Egypt in 2006, however, reconnected Delshad with her intrinsic pride in her culture and its traditions. She began to see her Middle Eastern heritage “as a source of empowerment instead of disdain.” It also prompted another shift in thinking – one concerning her career goals.
Prior to the trip, Delshad had been accepted into USF’s prestigious 7-year medical program and, as a freshman, was studying biomedical science.
While she had always loved writing, Delshad had never considered pursuing what she thought of as a hobby as her future profession. But after her struggle with her cultural identity during middle and high school and her return to Egypt, she decided that her strongest desire was not to pursue the long road to medicine. “I didn’t want to wait until I was 30 to make an impact. I wanted to do it sooner, and I could that by helping change people’s views about Arabs through journalism.”
The decision made, Delshad remained in USF’s Honors College but changed her major to mass communications. She began to pursue her new goal – to become an international multimedia journalist – with passion, assembling a remarkable resume of mass media experience, honors, scholarships and awards.
As a contributor to The MidEast Connect, an online magazine, she interviewed young, up-and-coming Arab and Muslim professionals. Interning with local businesses gave her experience writing press releases, blogging and designing promotional materials. And classes such as advanced reporting forced her to jump out of her “introspective shell,” as she puts it, pitching, researching and writing stories on deadline.
In the fall of her senior year, Delshad was selected from a pool of telecommunications applicants as the only print student to produce the Florida Focus Newsbreak show, which airs on local public television station WUSF-TV. During her tenure, she had the opportunity to cover President Obama’s visit to the Florida town of Arcadia. Delshad produced, shot, wrote and edited a reporter package on deadline covering the event.
In addition to WUSF-TV, Delshad has also garnered radio broadcast experience as an intern with WUSF 89.7, Florida’s largest National Public Radio affiliate, finding herself on air within her first week at the station. The experience enabled her to learn the basics of the business first-hand, including audio editing, field reporting, voicing spots and announcing techniques, as she covered stories on issues such as Florida’s class size amendment and the Haiti earthquake.
While Delshad has earned numerous scholarships and awards during her time at USF, one, in particular, has brought her international repute. As a junior, she was the first-place award recipient for the United States in the 2009 essay contest sponsored by the Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance. Over 2,500 entrants from 20 different countries submitted essays addressing the problems posed by civil rights repression in the Middle East. Delshad was one of just 10 top winners recognized for her mock news story about young Americans harnessing new technology to help publicize the taboo writings of their Middle Eastern counterparts.
While the actual story was the product of her creativity, it reflects her real desire to make an impact through journalism – an impact she will be well on her way towards achieving immediately following graduation as one of a handful of recipients selected nationwide for a prestigious fellowship with the International Radio and Television Society.
“I believe that my sensitivity to other cultures will prove essential in becoming a journalist in this global economy,” she says. “Changing my major assured me that no thing in life is set in stone and to just accept and adapt to change as it comes,” she says.
An essential lesson for any future journalist.
Story by Mary Beth Erskine
Photos by Aimee Blodgett