Nicole Awad '17
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Nicole Awad '17

Going Where Life Takes Her

Nicole Awad in the The Museum of Jewish Civilization, by a map of where she and a team of researchers used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to discover the remains of a synagogue.

Nicole Awad '17, is no stranger to travel and adventure. In her first two years at the University of Hartford, Awad has already had the opportunity to travel to Greece and Lithuania to conduct archeological research and hopes to study and travel more, continuing to live by her mantra of “going where life takes me!”

Born in Lebanon, and raised largely in New Canaan, Conn., Awad spent her middle school years in England. She was drawn to the University of Hartford because of its “lovely setting” and the sense of community she felt when she visited to campus. It also helped that the University was close to home so that she could stay connected to her father who lives in the state and who she calls “one of my greatest role models.” Originally, Awad decided to major in international studies, believing a political career was in her future. But after a few history courses, Awad found her true passion in Middle Eastern and Asian studies and changed her major to history. Meeting Professor Richard Freund, PhD, her academic advisor and research mentor, has allowed her to fulfill another passion: archaeology.

Impressed by Awad’s talent and work ethic, Freund invited Awad to join him in Rhodes, Greece, where they used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to discover the remains of a synagogue—research she later presented at the Undergraduate Research and Creativity Colloquium on campus. Through this experience, Awad developed a much deeper understanding of the field of archaeology, and got practice doing the work archaeologists do. This past summer Awad traveled to Lithuania to conduct GPR of the ruins of the Great Synagogue of Vilnius, which was destroyed in WWII. The project was covered on Fox News, and the Israel antiquities website.

Awad is grateful for the mentoring Freund provides. “He has supported me immensely during my time in the College of Arts and Sciences. His confidence in my ability to become a professional archaeologist has driven me to pursue my dream as a full-time career. The travel and research opportunities in Greece and Lithuania Dr. Freund have offered me were life-changing.” Awad also credits the courses of Professor McLaughlin, PhD for “inspiring me as a history student and helping me develop my writing skills.” She notes that McLaughlin also helped to create and build the University of Hartford History Association. This group participates in Connecticut National History day, serving as judges and helping elementary and middle school students with their history projects. Awad appreciates the opportunity to make a difference in the community by helping students present their best work at the regional and national history competitions.

In her spare time, Awad volunteers as a docent at the Museum of Jewish Civilization, acts as a preceptor in Freund’s first-year seminar, and serves as a volunteer firefighter. Awad also likes to create ink art, and play her part in conserving history. After graduation, Awad plans to attend graduate school to study archaeology or physical anthropology with a focus on European anthropology.