Born in the Palestinian city of Rafah, Ahmed Abukhater grew up in a world where water was scarce and violence was not.
Water rights in Abukhater's hometown are owned by their long-time adversaries, the Israelis, meaning Abukhater was raised not only in a world of ceaseless violence, but in a world of dire environmental inequity.
Nine years ago, determined to change his destiny and, in turn, the destiny of his people, Abukhater forged a path that will culminate this week in the awarding of his doctorate in community and regional planning from the School of Architecture.
His doctoral dissertation focuses on international water conflict resolution and the issues of water scarcity and environmental equity.
Arriving in the United States in 2001 as a Clinton Scholar, Abukhater received a master's degree in urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, while working as city planner for the city of Champaign.
While attending The University of Texas at Austin, Abukhater initiated and implemented the first campus-wide geographic information system (GIS) for Wi-Fi access and earned a 2008 Cactus Goodfellow Award for his substantial contributions to the university. He also pioneered the way for other Palestinian athletes. He was the first to represent and win for Palestine at the world powerlifting championships, where he set world records in his weight class.
Abukhater has, in his nine-year tenure in the U.S., married, had three sons and begun a career as a community development manager for ESRI, a worldwide company using GIS to address social, economic, business and environmental concerns.
"I want to use my knowledge to help alleviate water stress through equitable allocation of water," said Abukhater. "And since water rights are a global issue, I hope in the process, to find global solutions."