Princeton senior Abdelhamid (Hamid) Arbab has been named a 2023 Marshall Scholar to pursue two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom. The Marshall Scholarship offers intellectually distinguished young Americans the opportunity to develop their abilities as future leaders by studying at a UK university of the recipient’s choice.
Arbab, of North Arlington, New Jersey, is majoring in the School of Public and International Affairs. He is among the 40 winners of the 2023 Marshall Scholarship, selected from over 950 applicants from public and private colleges and universities across the United States.
“Hamid Arbab will leave Princeton immeasurably richer for his presence here,” said Anastasia Mann, lecturer in the School of Public and International Affairs. “Among the more than 100 students I have taught over a decade at Princeton, Hamid is quite possibly the most intellectually gifted; he is certainly among the kindest. I have never met a student as committed to the pursuit of global human liberation via intellectual means.”
Arbab plans to earn two graduate degrees as a Marshall Scholar, a master’s of arts in Islamic studies at the University of Birmingham and a master’s of science in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Oxford.
He later plans to attend Harvard Law School, having deferred admission in order to pursue the Marshall Scholarship. Arbab ultimately hopes to pursue a legal career in a position within the U.S. government that supports reforms to the criminal justice system.
“Through my experiences at Princeton, I have discovered a passion for criminal justice reform and its intersections with the global struggle for racial justice,” Arbab said in his application essay. “Studying in the United Kingdom would provide me with a vital international perspective for my future legal career.”
While in the UK, Arbab plans to study the lived experiences of Muslims, particularly as they intersect with the criminal justice system.
“Two years of study into and exchange with justice-impacted communities in the UK would be formative to my career commitment of transforming the criminal justice system by centering and building power for the communities most afflicted by it,” Arbab said.
Arbab’s senior thesis at Princeton analyzes the scope of prison-based religious accommodations for incarcerated Muslims in the New Jersey state prisons. He hopes to conduct a similar study in Birmingham during his first year in the UK. He then plans to study criminal justice at Oxford with a focus on policies that adversely impact minority communities.
“Hamid has an inquisitive mind and is a critical thinker, and he is passionate about civil rights,” said Arbab’s senior thesis adviser, Udi Ofer, the John L. Weinberg Visiting Professor and Lecturer of Public and International Affairs.
Ofer, a longtime civil rights attorney, added that Arbab “is exceptionally smart and rigorous in his thinking” and is “guided by strong moral values and a passionate desire to help people.”
Arbab said his interest in criminal justice reform was shaped by his childhood, his experiences at Princeton, and his work with prisoners and prisoners' rights organizations.
“My parents immigrated to the United States from Sudan, escaping military crackdown and political instability, to build a better future for me and my four siblings,” Arbab said. “This sacrifice has inspired me to live a life of gratitude, or to be ‘Hamid,’ or grateful, as my name implies in Egyptian Arabic, and to live in the service of others.”
He also was deeply affected by his internship at the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ New York chapter during summer 2020.
“During the historic Black Lives Matter protests, I worked with grassroots organizations to pass a series of policing reforms and assisted my supervisors in using the law to protect protestors' rights,” Arbab said. “It was then that I committed to a career in legal advocacy, where I aim to use the law, public policy, and grassroots connectivity to promote justice for all.”
In addition, he has worked as a prisoners’ rights intern for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and as a Guggenheim summer research fellow at the Vera Institute of Justice.
Arbab is currently a presidential fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, which invites top college students in the United States and around the world to learn about leadership and governance, share their research and explore careers in public service.
He is also an analyst at the Green Medical Network Group, a physician-led organization focused on innovations in healthcare among rural, underserved and vulnerable populations. In addition to conducting research on the expansion of telemedical care for incarcerated populations, Arbab helps curate the organization’s social impact fund.
Arbab has served as policy director of the Progressive Democrats of New Jersey and co-founded the Democratic Socialists of America’s Muslim Caucus.
While at Princeton, Arbab’s leadership roles have included: co-founder and co-leader of Princeton’s Interfaith-RISE, which works with a local refugee resettlement organization; co-chair of the Student Volunteers Council; co-president of the Princeton Re-Entry and Employment Preparation student organization; co-president of the Muslim Students' Association; and president of the student group Muslim Advocates for Social Justice and Individual Dignity (MASJID).
He is a residential college adviser in Mathey College. He previously was a John C. Bogle '51 Fellow in Civic Service and an undergraduate fellow for the Program in Religion, Diplomacy and International Relations at the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination.