Student Spotlight

Career Talk podcasts debut with M.A.O.L. grad Essraa Nawar

February 25, 2016 by Brandman University

Essraa Nawar

A new subseries of Brandman University  podcasts, Brandman Speaks: Career Talk, launches with Master of Arts in organizational leadership (M.A.O.L.) graduate Essraa Nawar talking about how she got her job as coordinator of development at Chapman University’s Leatherby Libraries, her longterm career goals and what she loves about working at an academic library. Those libraries also support the students at Brandman (Inside Brandman: Virtual library provides instant access).

Nawar grew up in Egypt and worked in a number of positions. Her M.A.O.L. degree helped her move up to her current job.

Also on this podcast, Katy Curameng, director Career Services, talks about the purpose of the podcast series.


Welcome to Brandman Speaks. I’m Cindy O’Dell, communications manager at Brandman, University. This is the first a new series of podcasts focusing on the careers of Brandman alumni. Katy Curameng, director of Career Services, explains the purpose of the Career Talk podcast.

Katy Curameng: Many students come to Brandman University while also working full time. Often their reasons for turning to higher education are to help them find a path to a new career or to advance in the career their current career. We hope that by sharing how Brandman graduates utilize their degrees in forming their career trajectory current students will find guidance and inspiration in the development of their own career paths.

O’Dell: Recent Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership graduate Essraa Nawar is the coordinator of development at Chapman University’s Leatherby Libraries. She’s also a blogger, has contributed articles to the Huffington Post and Orange County Register and recently talked about overcoming stereotypes in a TEDx talk in Munich, Germany. We wanted to know more about her career path.

Essraa Nawar: It’s quite interesting because I’ve had three jobs so far since I graduated from college. I started as a data entry specialist at the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington D.C. and that was right after I moved from Egypt to Washington D.C. and Virginia. My husband was doing his Ph.D. at George Mason University, and I was kind of looking for a job and because I am bilingual they wanted somebody who speaks Arabic and English fluently and be able to do some data entry in both languages. So I kind of picked that job and it was really fun and great to be around the diplomats and great people and really it was a great experience just being in the D.C. area, living in that metropolitan area lots of experiences and lots of fun. So then later when we moved back to Egypt, between 2005 to 2009, I worked as the head of Gifts and Acquisitions for the Library of Alexandria. And this is where I fell in love with libraries and I decided at that point that I have to complete my career – libraries will be, you know, the career that I would pick for myself. Not necessarily a librarian at that point but working in libraries. But then when my husband got an offer to join the Chapman faculty in 2008, we moved with him and I started my work in the Leatherby Libraries ay Chapman

O’Dell: Initially, there weren’t any openings at the library, so she began as a volunteer.

Nawar: They gave me a temp project where I worked at the basement of the library for about a year and then later they offered me a job as the assistant to the dean for Communications and Marketing. Then a couple of years later, because of my degree here Brandman, I got promoted to be the coordinator of development and have and I have my own team that I supervise, really focused on marketing and events and I focus on donor relations and fundraising.

O’Dell: We wanted to know what attracted her to library work.

Nawar: Working for the Library of Alexandria opened a lot of doors for me and really made me fall in love with libraries. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a place where you work beside books, have access to books, have access to electronic resources? The donor relations part really was a lot of fun because I worked for the gift unit for a while. Just being around intellectuals all the time also was fascinating. Also, just making a difference in the community because back in Egypt the Library of Alexandria was the only library in the city of Alexandria. So making that connection with the patrons and making that difference with all kind of programming, events, books. Then when I moved here, also the library of Chapman is only 10 years old and I was there you know right after five years when it was open and making a difference. And an academic library is just fascinating –  connections, collaborating. So I decided the librarianship is what I want to be part of as a career.

O’Dell: But first she decided to pursue her M.A.O.L. at Brandman and, as it turned out, that also helped her advance her career.

Nawar: Specifically Brandman, it opened the doors. I mean, just studying leadership didn’t necessarily guided me in the career but help me with my leadership skills because I was working as the assistant to the dean for Marketing and Communications, and before I was hired there was nobody doing any communications and marketing in the library. But studying the ideas and the theories of a changing organization, system leadership, system thinking and change specifically, guided me in putting the marketing strategies in communications for the Leatherby Libraries. So it kind of like kicked in all these things and I created the marketing strategy for the library that seems to be working really well right now. We tweak it every once in a while, but really the guidance that studying the theories of leadership has guided me and of course the writing part of the research has helped me a lot.

O’Dell: It isn’t just career advancement at the library that’s been helped by her Brandman degree.

Nawar:  In my personal life, really writing it at Brandman opened the door for my personal writing that I do for the Huffington Post, for the Orange County Register. I wrote a couple of articles for the Chapman Magazine, actually one of them is coming up later this month, and I write for different blogs so really these the writing at Brandman, because I do have my MBA that I got in 2005 but it wasn’t really focused on writing at all. There was some research, some you know comparative analysis on all these things that most of the MBAs do, but it wasn’t focused on writing and research as much as Brandman was. So it just helped me because I started my writing career for the Huffington, specifically, in 2013 while I was at Brandman so just having that opened a lot of doors for me. I mean I’m a Muslim woman and I come from Egypt and with what’s happening around us in the world I thought there is a story to be told and I felt like I had the power or because the writing that I learned, you know the Writing Center at Brandman helped me a lot and just having those assignments regularly, on a weekly basis, and practicing the writing. I’ve always thought of myself as ‘Oh, I can never I can never be a writer.” I had that misconception in my head. But practicing this writing the writing skills on a weekly basis really gave me that power, empowered me to be a writer. I can’t call myself like a professional writer but at least I have a voice and I’m confident enough to share it with the world.

O’Dell: Essraa has a couple of specific takeaways from her time at Brandman.

Nawar: First for the master’s in organizational leadership specifically, I don’t think you go for it for changing careers. I think you go for it if you’re wanted to advance your job. If you want to take a leadership position or more responsibilities or growing within your own position, I think most people do that. I mean really studying leadership can be applied for engineers or medical doctors or, you know, librarians. I mean anybody should actually study it if you’re moving up or you want to move up in your own organization. It’s an interdisciplinary degree so it can really apply, be applied easily. Actually my husband, he’s a professor, he’s in sciences, but he enjoyed a lot of the articles that I would download and read for him. He’s like, “oh, that’s really interesting.” I mean with a Ph.D. himself, he actually told me a couple of times “I should go and take that degree myself” because it really can be applied to anyone. So would be my first advice. Don’t go there if you’re seeking career change because you need other training or others or other venues to do that. But if you’re seeking moving up or growing within your own job, you should definitely seek out this degree. And the other thing is really take advantage of the writing and the reading. Don’t skip because you know we all tend to do that at all especially in online education when the time is really limited, but the more you read the more you enrich yourself with these, you know, readings and assignments. So those would be my two takeaways.

O’Dell: Her education isn’t over.

Nawar: Right after I got the master’s in organizational leadership last year, I decided that really librarianship and specifically administration and libraries is really what I want to continue to develop myself in. Even though I’ve worked in libraries for almost seven years now I still need that piece of education in order to be a fully librarian and hopefully you know along the road to associate dean or dean in an academic library.

O’Dell: We wanted to know how Essraa found her job at Chapman. Networking is often a critical component of any job search. In her case, it began with a family network that got things started.

Nawar: As soon as I moved here I started just, you know, looking around but my husband happened to meet the current dean of the libraries, Charlene Baldwin, at a reception welcoming the new faculty and he just mentioned casually that I used to work for the library, and she said, “Oh my God, I need to meet her.” So we made a … and we worked together really, really well. She’s been a wonderful mentor for me and I have to, you know, credit her for a lot of the things that I do now. So we built that relationship and I always tell her , “You tested me for a while, you know, by being a volunteer.” And she offering me a specific project but I happened to kind of pass that test and it just happened that I’ve been moving up since then.

O’Dell: Essraa took her Brandman classes online. While she says that doesn’t work for everyone, she found it a better fit with her life as a wife, mother and full-time employee. She has no trouble recommending Brandman to others.

Nawar: It’s something that I recommend for all the people I know. I mean a friend of mine, he’s just taking prerequisite courses and I just recommended it for him. Another friend actually – it’s funny when you guys did the blog post about my TED X – a random Muslim woman who lives up north just saw that post and she’s just applied to Brandman because she felt really comfortable, you know, about the program and about the fact that the program is so diverse, so accepting and she said she talked to me about my experiences and we’ve been friends for about a month now and she’s really excited about applying and I think she did apply a couple of weeks ago and so it’s really funny how these connections developed.

Curameng: At Brandman, we know how important it is to connect to other people in similar careers. Students and alumni are encouraged to connect with Career Services both to seek guidance and to be available to others as mentors. Look for the Career Services link on the home page or on the student page of

Brandman Speaks: Career Talks is a production of the Communications Department of Brandman University. More information about the university can be found at Additional podcasts can be found at or on iTunes.

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