Samar Ali, Class of 2006, appointed White House Fellow

Samar S. Ali, who earned her J.D. at Vanderbilt Law School in 2006, has been appointed a White House Fellow.

Ali is currently an associate with the law firm Hogan Lovells US, where she was a founding member of the firm’s Abu Dhabi office and where her practice addresses mergers and acquisitions, cross-border transactions, Shari’a compliant transactions, project finance and international business matters.

She is one of 13 men and women appointed to the 2010-11 class of White House Fellows, a program created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to give promising American leaders “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.” Fellows also take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, military operations and current affairs. Community service is an important component of the program, and Fellows participate in service projects throughout the year in the Washington, D.C. area.

Selection as a White House Fellow is based on a record of remarkable early career professional achievement, evidence of leadership potential, a proven commitment to public service, and the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute successfully at the highest levels of the Federal government. “The program is focused on leadership and community service,” Ali said. “The opportunity to spend a year focusing on developing better leadership skills with some of the country’s greatest leaders is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Ali began seeking out leadership opportunities and training soon after starting to Vanderbilt, where she earned her undergraduate degree in political science with honors. During her freshman year, she co-founded the Middle Eastern Students Association and began her three-year involvement with Vanderbilt’s Student Government Association by joining the multicultural committee and the SGA Future Leaders Program. Just two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Ali rose to an unofficial leadership position by speaking publicly about her Muslim faith and her religion’s condemnation of the perpetrators’ action. She was the university’s first Arab-Muslim student body president. “I think leadership training is critically important because it encourages you to self-reflect about what makes a good leader and about what you need to work on,” Ali says. ” And I like the fact that you’re never quite done  – there’s always something to learn.”

During law school, Ali was a legal intern for Stites & Harbison in Nashville from 2005-06, and she later interned for the Islamic International Arab Bank in Amman, Jordan. After earning her J.D., she clerked for The Honorable Gilbert S. Merritt, Class of 1960, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and for The Honorable Edwin Cameron, now of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, where she also worked extensively on editing his book, Witness to AIDS.

“Samar was an amazingly well rounded and poised student who added a very valuable perspective to our student body and to the International Law Practice Lab,” said Professor Mike Newton, who supervised a project Ali completed on comparative human rights in Islamic societies.

As a young professional in Nashville, Ali led the YMCA Israeli-Palestinian Modern Voices for Progress Program, and she is currently the transatlantic liaison for the development of the Palestine Diabetes Institute. She is a founding member of the first U.S. Delegation to the World Islamic Economic Forum, and has served as an Advisory Board Member of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health. She is also a three-time Southeastern Tae Kwon Do Black Belt Champion.

Ali was born at Vanderbilt Hospital — “Frank Boehm delivered me!” she recalls — and reared in Waverly, Tennessee, where her parents, both doctors, run the Waverly Clinic. Her mother immigrated to the United States from Syria at age 26, and her father left the West Bank town of Ramallah at age 17.

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