A lot of graduates from Fort Hays State University participated in the online commencement ceremony this year because of the pandemic. But Osama Tamimi decided long ago he would attend his graduation from FHSU, even if it meant making the long trek from the Middle East to the middle of the United States.
Tamimi – who earned a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in cybersecurity through FHSU Online – made the 6,744-mile trip from his homeland East Jerusalem, Palestine, to personally participate in last weekend’s graduation activities.
Allowing online graduates to take part in the in-person commencement ceremonies was one of several requirements for Tamimi when he began researching online degree opportunities two years ago.
A self-described researcher, Tamimi – an IP network and security supervisor for a telecommunications company in Palestine – was looking for an online program in cybersecurity at an institution with excellent accreditation. He was impressed to find that FHSU is accredited through the National Center of Academic Excellence (NCAE) in information assurance and cyber defense education. The U.S. Government has designated FHSU as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. Affordable tuition at FHSU was also a plus.
“There aren’t too many programs that are entirely online,” Tamimi said, “and they aren’t many with that accreditation. I was very pleased to see that tuition is the same for anyone – worldwide. There were options in Australia and the United Kingdom, but there were better options in the United States. With Fort Hays State, I found exactly what I was looking for.”
After all the cancelations and event rescheduling because of the pandemic, Tamimi – who had a current U.S. Visa – knew there was still a possibility he wouldn’t be able to attend his graduation ceremony in person. When he learned that FHSU was indeed holding in-person ceremonies this spring, he began planning for his 12-day trip to America.
Tamimi earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid, Jordan, in 2011. Various fellowships and work obligations have taken him to 28 different countries.
This was his fifth trip to the United States – and first to Kansas – and he made the most of it.
He checked regulations for every airport he would be using, paying close attention to any possible changes because of COVID-19 protocols. After several days of travel, he arrived in Hays on Tuesday, three days before his commencement ceremony.
A lover of nature, Tamimi visited Cedar Bluff Lake in Trego County. He wanted to take a tour of Hays, too, so Cindy Elliott – FHSU assistant vice president for Global Partnerships – obliged.
On his return trip home, Tamimi planned a visit to Wilson Lake, Mushroom State Park near Brookville, and the state capitol in Topeka, then take a drive through the Flinthills on his way to the Kansas City International Airport.
“I just really wanted to experience the joys of Kansas, but it turned out that attending the ceremony in person has more benefits and advantages than I initially thought,” he said. “I was introduced to many faculty and staff members and got to know them in person, which resulted in an excellent engagement. It made the Hays trip very fruitful with unforgettable memories, not to mention the good times that I spent on campus. Having such an experience will encourage me to get back to school in the future for a higher degree.”
Tamimi was able to continue his program without delay when the pandemic forced Fort Hays State to switch to remote operations for the remainder of the spring semester last year.
“The beauty of our program is that it’s designed for online first. All the content and hands-on lab activities are the same if you are on campus or in taking courses online,” said Jason Zeller, assistant professor of informatics, lead faculty of the cybersecurity program, and Tamimi’s advisor. “So absolutely nothing changed with the program when COVID hit. We were fortunate in that regard.”
Tamimi was pleased that he was able to incorporate into his workplace findings from his master’s capstone project – automatic detection and mitigation of Volumetric DDoS attacks (one of the most common attacks in cybersecurity). For his project, he developed software that will automatically detect and mitigate that type of attack.
Tamimi thinks FHSU’s master’s program stacks up against any in the world.
“I have had a lot of fellowships in several different countries,” Tamimi said, “and Fort Hays State’s cybersecurity program is an exceptional one.”