Professor Salwa Vandegrift is the Arabic instructor for the SRU Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, where she began teaching in 2015. Since being at SRU, she has achieved her certificate to teach classes online. Her past education includes a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MS in Thermal Power.
Upon coming to the US in 2006, Professor Vandegrift, inspired by the conflict she witnessed in her home country of Iraq, decided to take a job with the US military in Iraq. She was a Department of Defense contractor serving on an American military Judge Advocate General team. Professor Vandegrift and her team proved to be an integral part of creating the Iraqi court system, which is still in use today.
After deploying to Iraq for approximately a year, Professor Vandegrift returned home. Shortly after returning home, she felt the need to do more after seeing the lack of training US soldiers had in the Arabic language and culture. After little thought about how Vandegrift could help, she began teaching US soldiers critical knowledge of the Arabic culture and the language through distance education. She was able to teach hundreds of US soldiers basic and advanced Arabic, preparing them for their deployments to Iraq. During their deployment, their training in Arabic proved to be crucial in communicating effectively with the Iraqi people and also understanding their culture.
In 2013 she left the first US state she resided in to follow her husband’s career to Pennsylvania. Upon arriving in Pennsylvania, she became a phone interpreter for Arabic. During her time as a phone interpreter, she took thousands of calls translating crucial information from doctors and their patients and lawyers and their clients. After a few years of working as a phone interpreter, Professor Vandegrift felt the need to help others again. She saw an opening for an Arabic instructor at SRU and applied.
In 2015 she accepted her position at SRU and had worked tirelessly to improve a once almost non-existent Arabic program. She started first by creating the Arabic club, which has participated in many trips and hosted several events. Some of the trips were to Pittsburgh and Michigan’s Arabic communities, where they enjoyed fine Middle Eastern cuisines. Some of the events hosted involved guest speakers, belly dancing, hentai tattoos, BINGO, and several other fun things. She then created “The Middle Eastern Studies” certificate, which is the most sought after by SRU students today. After the creation of the certificate, she was finally able to create the Arabic Minor. Professor Vandegrift proudly teaches all level classes from beginning to advanced.
On June 22, 2016, Professor Vandegrift’s dream came true when she proudly took the oath to become a US citizen. She is married to her husband Jason Vandegrift and mother to two children, son Keith, and daughter Adrianna. In raising her children, she has learned the true meaning of patience and love. She also has two dogs, Tina and Cody. Her dream is to visit all 50 US states, and since she arrived in the US in 2006, she has seen 14 states.
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