HawkStrong: HFC instructor and alumna proudly earns her doctorate

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Asia Mohamed Al-Jalal in her graduation gown with her 9 year old son at her side.

Asia Mohamed Al-Jalal found inspiration to pursue a career in teaching while she was still a student at Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn, learning the English language.

“I was an English Language Learner in high school. I had an English teacher who, like me, wore a hijab. Her presence made me feel accepted and encouraged me to strive for success,” recalled Al-Jalal. “When I expressed my admiration for her and my aspiration to follow in her footsteps, she wrote me a note affirming her belief in my potential to become a great teacher. This gesture meant the world to me, as it gave me a sense of understanding and support. Through this experience, I came to realize the valuable impact teachers can have on their students' lives. This inspired me to pursue a career in teaching.”

Four degrees from UM-Dearborn, plus her HFC degree

Born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Al-Jalal immigrated with her family to the United States in the early 2000s. A single mother, she lives in Dearborn with her son, 9. Al-Jalal, who speaks fluent English and Arabic, is the middle of nine children, six of whom have attended HFC. After graduating from Edsel Ford, she enrolled in HFC, where she earned her associate degree in arts.

“I decided to begin my academic journey back in 2004 at HFC (then Henry Ford Community College) primarily because it is a community-based college that provides a diverse environment and many opportunities. The programs are easily transferable, and the class schedules are flexible. I found it to be one of the most affordable colleges, and what resonated with me was its strong emphasis on providing personal and academic support to all students,” she said.

Al-Jalal transferred to the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and she is now a 4-time alumna. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a teaching certificate in English as a Second Language (ESL) and in mathematics. She later earned her master’s degree in education with an ESL endorsement. She then earned a graduate certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. And at the end of April, she earned her doctoral degree in education with a focus on online learning and adult ESL.

At UM-Dearborn, Al-Jalal won the Chancellor's Medallion, representing the College of Education, Health, & Human Services. She was also selected as the Center for the Education of Women scholar, and was the recipient of the Ed.D. Alumni Scholarship from the CEHHS.

“HFC played an important role in preparing me for my time at UM-Dearborn,” said Al-Jalal. “The courses I took provided me with a solid foundation of knowledge that was essential for my academic journey. The quality education I received at HFC truly prepared me for the more specialized classes at UM-Dearborn, particularly in teaching.”

Wanted to teach at HFC to help English Language Learners

Al-Jalal worked in the P-12 system for several years as both a teacher and a principal. She was the principal of the Al-Furqan Quran Academy in Detroit for two years.

“During that period, I developed a strong desire to help students with the challenges they face regarding cultural conflicts and social needs,” she said. “I worked as a guest lecturer in the English Language Proficiency Program at UM-Dearborn for one year.”

Al-Jalal wanted to give back to her alma mater.

“During my time as a student at the College, I was fortunate to have some truly memorable teachers,” said Al-Jalal. “They not only imparted knowledge but also listened to my concerns and provided invaluable guidance. Their classes inspired me and kept me motivated to work hard. I am incredibly grateful for their dedication and the lasting impact they've had on my learning journey.”

In 2017, she joined the HFC faculty and teaches in the English Language Institute (ELI). Al-Jalal reports to ELI Director Molly McCord.

“I decided to return and teach at HFC because of its significant population of English Language Learners,” explained Al-Jalal. “Having been an ELL myself, I understand the unique challenges these students face, and I wanted to contribute to their academic journey in a meaningful way. I've always had a passion for teaching and research, and HFC provides an excellent platform for me to pursue both. The supportive environment at HFC, along with opportunities for professional development, allows me to excel, learn, and enhance my career while making a positive impact on students' lives.”

“Asia is a thoughtful and dedicated instructor,” said McCord. “For the past couple of fall semesters, she has taken her ELL Communication students to the Environmental Interpretive Center on the UM-Dearborn campus, where they had the opportunity to walk around, take notes, ask questions, take pictures of their surroundings, and ultimately present their observations to their classmates. Asia is also committed to advancing her teaching practices through consistent participation in professional development opportunities offered at the college, state, and national levels. HFC is fortunate to have Asia.”

Education holds a strong value in her family

Al-Jalal spent six years completing her doctoral program. She confessed she had her doubts about completing it, especially being a single mother.

“I encountered challenges and roadblocks that at times seemed impossible to overcome. Many challenges, mainly financial, made my path difficult but I remained dedicated to completing my research and making an impact on society,” she said. “My parents' dedication to education is the foundation from which I am able to face such challenges. My parents could not attend school, but they were able to raise nine children and instill in each one of us the importance of education, despite their own limited opportunities. When we immigrated to the U.S. in the early 2000s, learning English was our first and main challenge. After almost two decades, I was the first in my family to earn a bachelor's and a master’s degree specializing in ESL.”

"Asia is a wonderful colleague who has a drive to improve her pedagogical practices for the benefit of her students,” said HFC ESL instructor Roger Frank. “I recall discussing her doctoral work with her, and it was evident how much she cares about her students, not only their learning, but also their well-being."

For seven years, Al-Jalal has taught at HFC. In the fall of 2021, she represented the U.S. as a virtual English Language fellow at Vietnam National University, Hanoi as part of a project administered by the U.S. Department of State and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The mission of the project was to promote mutual understanding between countries and empower students with confidence and the ability to improve their English skills while enriching their interpretation of American culture.

“While working as a fellow, I completed a ‘training for trainers’ course provided by the English Language Programs at the Department of State,” said Al-Jalal.

Understanding and addressing the needs of adult learners

For Al-Jalal, the best part about teaching at HFC is the welcoming and friendly environment.

“The faculty are supportive, and there are various workshops available. The diverse student body, coming from different backgrounds, makes it an inclusive and accepting place to teach,” she said. “With the completion of my doctorate, I aim to utilize the skills I have acquired to offer valuable resources to aspiring educators, conduct impactful research within classroom settings, and enhance the learning experiences of adult ELLs. My focus lies in understanding and addressing the needs of adult learners as they develop both academic and personal skills while mastering English.”

Her career goal is to improve the quality of ESL education by developing comprehensive instructional programs designed for ELLs, particularly adults.

“Through continued research, I aspire to cultivate leadership skills among ESL educators, empowering them to effectively support and guide their students,” said Al-Jalal. “Through teaching in higher education institutes, my goal is to inspire other students to pursue their education and strive for higher degrees, just as I have done.”

Related Content: HFC English Language Institute overview video

Dr. Asia Mohamed Al-Jalal teaches in in the ELI.