Mohamad Batal ’18 spins senior thesis into undergraduate conference award

Some of Mohamad Batal’s favorite memories at CMC involve Beckett Hall patio barbecues, watching Champions League matches on the Appleby balcony, and spending “deliriously late nights” in the Salvatori Center. But he gets the biggest jolt of CMC excitement while thinking about his senior thesis, the basis of which earned him a first-place award for Best Presentation at the inaugural Undergraduate Scholars Conference in Israel Studies at UCLA earlier this summer.

“I have never worked so hard for so long while learning so much,” Batal ’18 said of researching for his thesis. “At UCLA, I couldn’t wait to hear people's reactions to the work I had been doing for so many months. I particularly enjoyed talking about Israel in a completely new and genuinely academic context.”

The June conference held at the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies assembled students from multiple California colleges and universities to discuss issues related to security, identity, and global relations. Batal’s presentation—“Shifting Priorities? The Changing Landscape of Israeli Constitutionalism”—outlined and analyzed the foundational tension between Israel’s Jewish identity and liberal-democratic principles to which the state is also committed.

A double major in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), and Government, Batal credits professors George Thomas and Gary Gilbert with helping him craft and polish his thesis. In addition to the conference honor at UCLA, Batal was also awarded Best Thesis in Government at CMC.

“Their areas of expertise complemented each other perfectly, and my thesis would not have been possible without either of them,” said Batal, who after graduation, moved to Washington, D.C. to work as an honors paralegal at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“All of my professors taught me a great deal, and I genuinely felt that each of them was invested in my personal and academic growth. At CMC, I was constantly pushed to become a better writer, reader, and thinker.”

You can listen to Batal’s winning presentation online.

Thomas Rozwadowski