Like most people at Texas A&M, Joshua Graham ’14 is at a crossroads in his life. His past, jam-packed with travels and remarkable experiences, has inspired a vastly different future that starts here in Aggieland.
Graham, who is hardly a stranger to any challenge, is blazing a fresh path through academia with the goal of creating profitable businesses to encourage economic growth and help the underprivileged abroad.
He is working toward two certificates at Mays in Entrepreneurship and Business, while pursuing his master’s degree in International Affairs with a focus on International Economics and Development at the Bush School of Government and Public Service.
“At A&M right now you cannot apply for two graduate degrees at the same time,” Graham explains. “I have a habit of creating paths and avenues and opportunities where many don’t exist.”
Graham applied to numerous joint MBA/Masters of International Affairs programs, but wanted to come to Texas A&M despite the lack of a similar program. So Graham improvised, choosing the master’s program at the Bush School and selecting two essential certificates at Mays.
“The business education will provide me with the necessary skills to be a successful entrepreneur and have the basic business skills and education that are important to success in the private sector,” he says.
This is Graham’s second go-around at Texas A&M, having first attended the Bush School in the spring of 2003 for a graduate certificate in Advanced International Affairs. In the fall of 2012, Graham returned to Aggieland with a very unique goal in mind.
“I’m wanting eventually to do social entrepreneurship in the Middle East,” Graham says of his future. “I want to basically be in a capacity to build companies, hire locals, sell off the companies and use profits to build orphanages and schools in places like Gaza or the Palestinian camps of Lebanon, or the slums of Cairo.”
Specifically, Graham wants to bring Western technologies to the Middle East that are applicable in emerging markets. While working at the Office of Technology Commercialization at Texas A&M, he has been exposed to some of the technologies he’s thinking of. For example, a technology that can effectively remove harmful materials from water and soil could revolutionize agriculture in the Middle East and help spur economic growth in the area.
Graham’s relationship with the Middle East is not just a future plan, but something that has been developing since his first visit there in the summer of 2000. The trip came three months before the half-decade long period of violence known as the second intifada began between the two countries. This and other experiences abroad gave Graham a new perspective on the world, and when he returned to the United States, he decided against his original plan to be a high school history teacher and basketball coach.
“I changed my career path and went to D.C. for an internship on Capitol Hill,” Graham says. “My first day on Capitol Hill was 9/11.”
That was when Graham’s interest in the Middle East intensified. Instead of moving back to sunny L.A. to resume his original life plans, Graham enrolled in the Trinity Forum Academy on the Chesapeake Bay in eastern Maryland.
“I researched the Islamic civilization, the Islamic way of war, [and] religion’s role in international affairs.”
From there, Graham worked in various roles for the government, including working for members of congress and serving side by side with the military in the Middle East. He has certainly come a long way from that first visit. His vision for the region at first seems out of place coming from a man who spent Easter Sunday in 2008 in a hardened bunker in Iraq instead of a chapel, but he hasn’t let all of the negative experiences cloud his perspective.
“It’s gone from kind of a pure frustration-fascination with the history, to a hate-love relationship to a love-hate relationship and then finally, one that wants to be engaged with it for my career,” Graham says about how his feelings towards the Middle East have evolved over time. “I can always learn from other people, no matter their background, their nationality, or their perspective. To serve your fellow man is a tremendous privilege.”