2018 Alumni Awards: Zainab Alkebsi ’09, political science

Published: Sep 11, 2018
Eli Meir Kaplan/AP Images for American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (Mariajose Castellanos headshot)

Growing up, Zainab Alkebsi ’09, political science, always knew she wanted to become a lawyer. The daughter of Yemeni immigrants, Alkebsi is the first in her family to attend law school, as well as the only deaf member of her family.

As an attorney, Alkebsi hoped she could help break down barriers to accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Now, as policy counsel for the National Association for the Deaf (NAD), Alkebsi does just that. In her role with NAD, Alkebsi interfaces with government agencies, Congress, coalitions, media, and businesses on all issues affecting the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Alkebsi will receive the UMBC Rising Star award at the UMBC Alumni Awards ceremony on October 4.

Advocating for full access for deaf and hard of hearing people across all walks of life, Alkebsi reflects on her greatest professional success – and challenge – with pride. After seven months of grueling negotiation with major airlines for captioning access in flight, Alkebsi reached consensus with the airlines for 100% captioning. “On my next flight,” says Alkebsi, “I saw captioning on in-flight entertainment for the first time. I had goosebumps!”

The Sondheim Scholars Program, along with the small-campus feel, drew Alkebsi to UMBC for her undergraduate coursework. After graduating from UMBC, Alkebsi attended the University of Baltimore School of Law, where she was a policy intern for the Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and volunteer Rule 16 student attorney for the Innocence Project Clinic.

After receiving a degree from the Baltimore School of Law, Alkebsi clerked for the Honorable Alexandra Williams before becoming Deputy Director of the Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. As deputy director, Alkebsi developed bills for introduction in Maryland’s legislative session, monitored state and federal legislation, conducted legal research analysis, and developed training presentations for law enforcement, hospitals, and other key agencies and organizations that interactive with the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Lending her advocacy efforts to current UMBC students, Alkebsi serves as a guest lecturer in a class focused on deaf community and culture. She also serves on the Board of Deaf VISA, which partners with UMBC’s Signs of Life ASL Club for deaf-friendly events on campus.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Alkebsi spends her free time supporting D.C. sports, reading historical non-fiction, and raising her 5-month-old daughter.

– Amy Dalrymple

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REGISTER TODAY: Join us Thursday, October 4, to celebrate these individuals at the Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall.

See the full list of 2018 Alumni Award honorees here.

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