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A Family Affair

If all goes as planned, Samia Shaheen (BA ’19) will graduate from CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in May, take the bar exam, and join the firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease to practice labor and employment law. With that, she’ll become one of the latest members of her family with a new CSU degree.

Samia, who also earned undergraduate degrees from CSU in political science and international relations, is among 16 relatives who have attended CSU in some capacity. A few took coursework, some are current students, but the majority are full-fledged alumni — 10 to be exact, soon to be 11.

It all started back in the 1980s when Samia’s uncle, Bassam (Sam) Khawam (BIME ‘85), having recently left his home country of Lebanon, enrolled at CSU. Most of his family had emigrated together, including Samia’s mother and grandparents. Around the same time, Samia’s father and his family were separately making the same move to the United States. The two families — the Shaheens and Khawams — would eventually settle in Cleveland. 

Samia says that she doesn’t think that her family’s legacy of attending CSU was coincidental. Her family is close, so it made sense that after having one member attend, another one would soon follow, and then another one and another.

“Every single year, the next person who was in line to enroll in a university said, ‘I am going to go to Cleveland State because cousins A, B, C and D did it’,” she says.

 “I think it was leading by example.”

Samia’s experience as an undergraduate

“I had one of the best college experiences that I honestly could have ever had.” In her immediate family, Samia is a first-generation college student, which she admits came with its challenges. But university support, primarily through her involvement in TRIO, helped her to thrive. Eventually, she became the student body president.

The family’s original CSU alumnus: Bassam Khawam

It’s not likely that Bassam set out to start a family tradition when he made the decision to attend CSU, but that’s what happened. The proximity to home and family is what sold him. And he was able to study industrial engineering, while gaining hands-on experience in the workforce. By all accounts, the choice was a no-brainer. In his day, The Cage stood tall as the university center, and Peabody’s, a music club, was a campus hotspot. His son, Malek, also an alumnus, says he’s full of stories. Along with Malek, Bassam has two other children who attended CSU: Tarek and Elisa.

Hana Shaheen (BA ’21)

Hana knew that attending college with her cousins would make for a memorable experience, and she was right. Not only did she have her built-in family support system, she also created another one through her involvement with the Student Government Association and the Public Relations Student Society. “Being as involved as I was allowed me to create lifelong friendships, grow as an individual and professional and network myself into larger opportunities post-graduation.” Today, she’s a social media coordinator for The Adcom Group in Cleveland.

Malek Khawam (BA ’16, MPA ’17, JD ’20)

Like Samia, family is important to Malek, so having his family close while attending college was appealing. Plus, he says CSU’s location — in the heart of downtown Cleveland — was an added bonus. Malek’s a go-getter with three CSU degrees and works as an attorney at the Cleveland firm Mansour Gavin, where he says over half of the attorneys are also graduates of CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. But he didn’t leave CSU only with degrees; he also left with his soon-to-be wife. Malek met his fiancé, an alumna and now physician, in student government.

In May 2021, the family celebrated (second row, left to right) Hana, Nezar, Elias and Tarek as the newest CSU graduates.

Who’s Who in this Viking family
(in relation to Samia Shaheen, BA ’19, current CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law student)

Although everyone didn’t fully graduate from CSU, at some point, they all walked the campus as students.

Bassam (Sam) Khawam (BIME ’85) – uncle

Rana Fadel (BBA ’10) – sister

Malek Khawam (BA ’16, MPA ’17, JD ’20) – cousin

Olga Grech-Khawam (BSHS ’18) – cousin

Edward Khawam (BME ’20) – cousin

Elias B. Khawam (BSHS ’21) – cousin

Tarek Khawam (BME ’21) – cousin

Hana Shaheen (BA ’21) – sister

Nezar Khawam, (BSHS ’21) – cousin

Rawad Khawam (junior chemical engineering major) – cousin

Elias Khawam – uncle

Jamil Khawam – uncle 

Samia Saah-Khawam – aunt 

George Khawam – cousin

Elisa Khawam – cousin


Also in this Issue...

New leader of alumni relations seeks greater engagement

Anne-Marie Connors joined CSU as the associate vice president of alumni relations and corporate engagement and executive director of the CSU Alumni Association back in April. 

Steven Lake pays it forward, helps Cleveland students thrive in college and beyond

Steven M. Lake, Ed.D. (BA ’01, M.Ed. ‘03) has built his professional career by paying forward the boost he got as an undergraduate student at Cleveland State University. 

The walls that love built

“I just said, ‘I wish there was some magic place — a wall, if you will — where people could go and get things they need without judgement or stigma.’”

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Cleveland State University Alumni Association
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