April 25, 2024

Arab American History Month profile: Dr. Laurie Kattuah-Snyder

Laurie Kattuah-Snyder

The Chief Student Services Officer at Schoolcraft College reflects on her heritage during the annual month dedicated to Arab American history.  

Having a month dedicated to Arab American history is something that resonates with Dr. Laurie Kattuah-Snyder.

The Chief Student Services Officer for Schoolcraft College said it really wasn’t until recently she began being more open about her experiences as an Arab American.

“I’m excited to see there is a month dedicated to showcase the beauty, complexities, culture, and history of Arab Americans,” she said. “For most of my life, I avoided sharing my heritage with non-Arabs, and thanks to President Joe Biden, he issued a proclamation for Arab American Heritage Month back in April 2021.”

Celebrating Arab American history resonates strongly with Kattuah-Snyder, especially this year’s theme, “Celebrating Arab American Resilience and Diversity.” It makes her think of her father, who went to great lengths to make a better life for his family.

Laurie Kattuah-Snyder
Dr. Laurie Kattuah-Snyder, Chief Student Services Officer at Schoolcraft College

“After the 1947-48 war, my father was the first in his family to leave Palestine and immigrate to the US to make a better life for himself. He lived in Detroit with a distant relative and worked different jobs to save money for himself and to send back to his family,” she said. “He used to tell us the funny, and the sad, stories of his journey to become a U.S. citizen. He persisted in reaching his goal of becoming a U.S. citizen and became a successful small business owner, homeowner, husband, and father of six children.”

The monthlong observance of Arab American History Month is a relatively new one. It has been an idea since the 1990s, eventually making it way to Congress via a resolution introduced by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. A proclamation was published by the United States Department of State in 2021 as well. Biden published a letter in 2021 recognizing April as Arab American Heritage Month.

Having such a month is incredibly important, Kattuah-Snyder said, especially in educational spheres. Learning about new ways of life different from one’s own helps to better educate others on other cultures.

“Education is the great equalizer in all communities. Exposure to learning new and different things leads to awareness and sensitivity to new and different people and cultures,” Kattuah-Snyder said. “I grew up in a community that didn’t provide that exposure, and as such, my Arab American family were considered a minority and were treated with cautious curiosity by our neighbors and kids in school.”

Her father is a resonating figure in her life: Kattuah-Snyder said she consistently thinks about a line he would always share about doing your best, something she’s carried with her during her whole life.

“My father spoke to us in parables, so life lessons were sandwiched between his funny and not-so-funny lines. “In his attempt to teach me about careers, he said, ‘I don’t care if you become the president, or a janitor. Remember to be the best darn president or the best darn janitor you can be.’”

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