One day, around 2 a.m., John Sellers called his former Texas Tech professor Rashid B. Al-Hmoud, an associate professor of economics and director of graduate studies for the department. Al-Hmoud thought this was strange, but realized Sellers probably was not aware he and his family were on their annual trip to Amman, Jordan, where Al-Hmoud is originally from.
Al-Hmoud found out Sellers was preparing to gift the Tech Department of Economics a $1 million scholarship under Al-Hmoud's name. Al-Hmoud said Sellers had been wanting to do this for a while, and he wanted their names to always be tied together through this scholarship.
“You can only imagine what I felt,” Al-Hmoud said. “I felt, you know, humbled and honored about this generosity. And so, I am hoping that we will be able, with this very generous gift, to help students, both undergraduate students and graduate students. Those who want to study economics, who want to excel in economics, help them out.”
Rashid B. Al-Hmoud came to Lubbock about 30 years ago and received his master's degree and Ph.D. at Tech. This was the first time he had received a gift to this degree under his name, and Al-Hmoud continues to be a mentor and caretaker of those aspiring to work in economics.
Cody Campbell was one of Al-Hmoud's students who eventually donated to Tech after graduation. Campbell is now a member of the Board of Regents and has partnered with Sellers to create an oil and gas company, Al-Hmoud said. Campbell and Sellers’ philanthropy and successful businesses after Tech have made Al-Hmoud proud, he said.
“Also, hopefully this opens up the doors to other donors who actually graduated from here to say, well, you know, 'Academic programs are also important, and they need the support,'” Al-Hmoud said.
Ricardo Munoz, a fifth-year international economics major from San Antonio, said as president of the Tech Economics Association, Al-Hmoud has helped students develop stronger connections. He said Al-Hmoud provides advice and answers questions about where to take the organization.
The relationship between a professor/mentor and a student is important, whether they agree or disagree on certain things, Munoz said. Having a diverse set of thoughts and a contrast in ideas, he said, is good for students.
“I do think that a relationship with a professor is pretty good," Munoz said. "Especially for a student seeking guidance, whether, you know, in career, into career, or any sort of aspect of it. I think it's good just because the professor’s going to have a lot more wisdom, a lot more experience."
Jose Jimenez, the academic adviser for the economics department, said he hopes the scholarship will give economics more attention as he thinks many students may not know what it entails. After being an adviser at Tech for about six or seven years, Jimenez said he has never seen a donation such as this go to one specific department.
“I think our department has been overlooked, and I think this would actually be like a really good, you know, way to, you know, promote the department,” Jimenez said.
Students with financial struggles, Jimenez said, will hopefully be attracted to the department after hearing about this scholarship. It is proof that the department works hard and has been able to receive rewards such as this scholarship.
Most students tend to go to similar fields such as math or other disciplines, Al-Hmoud said, as these fields often receive more attention and funding. But with this gift provided by Sellers, Al-Hmoud said he’s hoping students will see that by being in economics, they, too, can get similar scholarships and rewards.
“The first lesson we teach in economics is that we respond to incentives," Al-Hmoud said. "So, by creating an incentive system in the department, and that is, ‘Hey, you do well, and you will be rewarded as a student,’ whether it's your undergraduate or graduate level. We want to make it easier for them to get education from this great institution, and without having to worry about gigantic amounts of student loans they have to repay in the future.”
Economics is a diverse field, Munoz said. There’s a misconception that options are limited within this field, he said, but that is untrue. Economics is versatile and provides students many options and opportunities for the future.
Having a gift of this nature given specifically to the economics department, Jimenez said, is a huge testament that the economics department is focused on the betterment of its students and is working hard to continue growing the field.
“You know, we’re trying to change the narrative, we’re trying to change the image that sometimes or very often, you know, giving to academic programs can also help the brand name of Texas Tech," Al-Hmoud said. "Sometimes more than, you know, a winning season, a winning football season or winning basketball season."
Al-Hmoud said Sellers’ gift to the department will, hopefully, attract graduate students with great potential to economics. This funding will create countless positive effects for the field, he said, and can elevate the overall status of the graduate program.
Al-Hmoud said he seeks to change the narrative of who is traditionally and most often funded.
“For me personally, I cannot say enough about what this scholarship means to me personally, and my family, and our department and our school,” Al-Hmoud said. “We're so grateful for Mr. Sellers for this great gift. And we're hoping that, like I said, we show that we are good custodians of this gift. And we take care of — we’ll take care of it and use it in a good way.”