Brahim Hamid Oudjana Found Academic Success and a Family at Wilkes

by Kelly Clisham
Brahim Hamid Oudjana stands in front of a Disney University sign

Brahim Hamid Oudjana came to Wilkes from Oman intending to study for one semester and stayed a year. Now in his second year in the United States, he’s participating in the Disney College Program, which brings students to work at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. He credits Wilkes with making it all happen.

Oudjana, an international business and service management major at German University of Technology, came to Wilkes in fall 2022 as a senior on an exchange program.  “I loved Wilkes and I extended my time there for spring 2023. And then I paid my own tuition for the summer,” he says. “This speaks to how attached I was to the University and the culture and community there.”

Studying in the United States had always been a dream, he says, but the Omani government only awarded him scholarships to study in that country. Then he learned the German university he attended had a partnership with Wilkes.

Oudjana says he found a family at the University even before classes started. He’d been there just two days when Tom Hansen, another international student from the University of Birmingham, suggested he attend a Wilkes Adventure Education (WAE) event. WAE organizes outdoor activities such as hiking and camping and facilitates the climbing wall and ropes course in the McHale Athletic Center.

Jill Price, WAE coordinator, asked the newly arrived Oudjana to help facilitate WAE Day, an event for new students. Since then, he’s participated in WAE hiking and camping adventures at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, New Mexico, Death Valley and eventually the famous Grand Canyon. “With WAE, it’s like I have a big family. And when I say family, I cannot stress that enough. It’s a big part of me,” Oudjana says. Talking about Price, he quips, “We call her ‘Mama Bear.’ ”

Price says that Oudjana – who is known as Ibra to his friends – brought special qualities to the group. “Ibra is very even keeled. He’s a very introspective guy,” Price says. “I was so glad to hike side by side with him on some of our trips and get to know him as a person…. He had an air of gratitude about him. He had humility and was connected to discovering his purpose. You just can’t beat it.”

Oudjana also excelled academically at Wilkes. He notes faculty in the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership went out of their way to help him to take the classes he needed by allowing him to do them as independent studies, such as revenue management with Anu Ghai, assistant professor of accounting. He also completed a research project studying a heritage site that is part of Oman’s tourism industry. The project, done under the supervision of HyeRyeon Lee, associate professor of hospitality, earned him second-place honors in the Sidhu School’s annual research symposium.

“His research idea and approach demonstrated a high level of innovation, which earned him second-place recognition,” Lee says. “He attempted to provide insightful solutions to complex issues in Oman’s tourism industry. While the current operational system cannot be fixed immediately, his research results offer valuable suggestions for long-term development. His outstanding research approach is particularly noteworthy considering he is an undergraduate student.”

Oudjana credits Wilkes for helping him get into the prestigious Disney College Program. Carol Bosack Kosek, director of career services, told him about the opportunity. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have even heard of the program,” Oudjana says. He is working at one of the Disney resorts until February – a perfect opportunity for someone interested in the tourism industry – and hopes he will be able to continue for a second semester to work in marketing. He also wants to come back to Wilkes-Barre to see his Wilkes family. “I always thought if I came to the States, I would want to go to a big university … I’m really glad that I landed at Wilkes,” says Oudjana. “If I went to one of those schools, I don’t think I’d have the sense of community, the warmth of Wilkes.”

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