Student Profile: James Zachary Hollo


By Wajeeha Malik

Photo by Hamza Iqbal


James Zachary Hollo has more on his plate than most students care to imagine. Not only is he planning on graduating early from Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) this May, he is also working on a Fulbright Program application for a research project related to slums in Mumbai, and is getting ready to move to China next summer to start teaching English in low-income communities.

Hollo, 21, is known to his teachers for his tenacity and determination.

“Zach is an exceptional student in every way–hard-working, questioning, focused, relentless, passionate about helping people and determined to succeed,” Mary Dedinsky, director of NU-Q’s journalism program, says. “During his university studies, he has been an outstanding scholar, asking the difficult questions and digging deeply into the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of his course work and extra-curricular activities.”

In addition to the several accolades granted to him, Hollo was also recently shortlisted to be a finalist for the Rhodes scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world of higher education. The scholarship funds students to pursue a second bachelors or a graduate degree from Britain’s prestigious University of Oxford.

Although he did not receive the scholarship, the fact that he was shortlisted is a source of honor for the university. He is the first student at NU-Q and in the journalism department in Qatar to have been awarded this honor. With the scholarship, Hollo had hoped to complete a one-year master’s program in ‘Refugee and Forced Migration Studies’.

In his application, Hollo cited his experience reporting on migrant labor in Qatar and Syrian refuges in Jordan, and expressed an interest in researching forced urban migration in China. “If I get the scholarship, I hope to pursue a career as a journalist reporting on one of these issues—or all of them,” he said prior to the decision.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, Senior Associate Director Fellowships for Northwestern University, Northwestern undergraduates have won 16 Rhodes Scholarships to date.  

“At Northwestern, any student interested in receiving a nomination must submit their completed application and interview with the British Scholarship Committee, which includes representatives of all the undergraduate colleges,” Pardoe says. This September, Dr. Richard Roth, NU-Q’s former senior associate dean, joined the committee to represent NU-Q.

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Hollo spent a year at New York University’s study abroad program in Shanghai, China, before coming to NU-Q.

In his time at NU-Q, Hollo has achieved several academic, co- and extra- curricular milestones. In addition to maintaining an excellent academic standing, he has volunteered with development organizations such as Mercy Corps, Habitat for Humanity and Stepping Stones English Teaching Program. Hollo was also a volunteer tutor at the Language Bridges Program in Qatar, teaching English to Nepali migrant workers.

Hollo also serves as the president of NU-Q’s International Student Association, and is a small forward for NU-Q’s and Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar’s combined basketball team.

In Spring 2015, Hollo will be spending 10 weeks working at Ground Truth, a multimedia publication in Boston that was formerly a branch of the news company Global Post, as part of his journalism course.

“I will focus my time producing content for their Belief blog, which reports on issues of religion and how different religious communities come in conflict with one another or coexist in tolerance,” Hollo says.

During his time in Education City, Hollo has also traveled extensively in the Middle East, Ethiopia and China, and learned some Arabic and basic Mandarin.

Although he has been accepted as a volunteer for WorldTeach – a non-profit organization that works with governments and organizations in developing countries to address educational needs – Hollo has already made up his mind about what he will be doing almost immediately after his graduation in May: he recently received a fellowship from Teach For China, a nonprofit foundation in Beijing, where he will be teaching English at under-resourced schools.

In what little free time remains, Hollo enjoys poetry and eating Indian food with friends.


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