Growing up in Syracuse, Rawan Jabaji ’05 always felt like SU was a part of her life. “I remember driving by SU and staring at the Hall of Languages in awe. I remember being glued to the TV watching SU basketball with my family. And I remember almost all of my cousins going to SU,” Jabaji says. “When it came time for me to pick a college, there was no question where I wanted to go. I see SU as home, as a family tradition, and as my first act in adulthood.”
As a college student who admittedly studied more than she socialized, Jabaji was exposed to new ideas, cultures, and philosophies at SU. “I still remember the thrill of leaving class excited by what I had scribbled in my notebook,” she says. “Nerdy, I know. But through this process of learning, I grew from being a teenager into an adult. Those ideas, cultures and philosophies shaped me and led me to pursue a career in journalism.”
Although Jabaji received dual degrees in psychology and political science from The College of Arts and Sciences, her heart was in storytelling. After pursuing her masters at New York University, Jabaji worked as a multimedia producer for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
Today the 2005 graduate is a producer and correspondent in New York City. There, Jabaji’s efforts were most recently focused on a new one-hour television special titled Culture Shock. The special, which premiered in July on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), follows three young filmmakers exploring relationships and marriage around the world, from a lavish wedding among Moscow’s nouveau riche to the life of an on-the-go Indian matchmaker to a mistress village in China where wealthy businessmen support secret second families.
“The inspiration behind Culture Shock was to make a film of intimate portraits of people around the world seen through our eyes, the filmmakers. I was contacted by a great Brooklyn-based production company, part2 pictures, to get involved with this adventure, and I immediately said yes!” Jabaji recalls. “Culture Shock allowed me to travel and see how other people live in different parts of the world. Having traveled quite a bit growing up, this was the perfect fit.”
Reflecting on her present career, Jabaji credits a handful of SU professors who inspired and pushed her to always do her best. “One particular professor, Laurence Thomas, always told me to ‘be brilliant,’ and I’ve carried that message along with me in the real world,” she says. “Whenever I have a moment of insecurity, when I’m not sure what to do or which direction to take, I remember ‘be brilliant.’ Things always seem clearer.”
While the future of Culture Shock remains to be seen—Jabaji is waiting to see if the pilot gets picked up as a full series—she’s already finding new ways to “be brilliant.” “Right now, I’m producing on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront. It’s fast-paced, live, daily news,” she says. “It’s exciting, because it’s a totally different experience from what I was doing before!”
No matter where Jabaji goes in pursuit of new cultures and philosophies, she’ll always consider SU to be home. “My alma mater is a part of me for life! I get excited when I meet other grads and love reminiscing about sunny days on the quad, classes, Marshall Street, and SU basketball,” she says. “Being involved with my alma mater allows me to share those happy memories and encourage prospective students to go to SU and make it their own. My time at SU was special, and I want to pass that experience along to others.