Class of ’22: Engineering grad overcomes challenges, learns lifetime lessons

April 25, 2022
Mohammed Harhara crosses his arms and smiles for a photo.

To mark the graduation of the Class of 2022, Marketing & Communications is profiling several students who were nominated by staff and faculty for their contributions to the University and their potential to make a difference after graduation. For more information about 2022 commencement exercises, please click here.

Mohammed Harhara was a senior in high school when his family decided to move more than 6,500 miles from their Saudi Arabian home to the small Detroit suburb of Melvindale, in 2014.  

“My English was very basic at that time,” said Harhara. “I thought that I would start learning at a first or second-grade level, but no. They had me doing the same essays and reading assignments as all the other students—it was challenging.” 

Mohammed Harhara, front, poses in front of fellow Titans, staff and faculty in the Student Fitness Center. The move interrupted many things in Harhara’s life. From being the top student in his class back in Saudi Arabia to barely being able to understand the curriculum here in the United States, all while experiencing the culture shock of a new country. 

Somehow that didn’t slow him down. 

“I worked really hard during my high school days,” said Harhara. “I was staying behind to talk to teachers to better understand things, we would even sometimes have to communicate through Google translate, but I found a way.” 

Harhara’s English got better and better simply by communicating and talking to people. 

“I really didn’t have any other choice, I wanted that same ‘top student’ title here, in the U.S., as I had in Saudi Arabia,” Harhara said. 

His hard work paid off and Harhara earned the President’s Education Award for his academic excellence in Melvindale. He was in the top 10 of his class and ended high school by graduating with honors.  

But his hard work didn’t stop there.  

“I was introduced to many different colleges in Michigan and it seemed like the choices were endless,” Harhara said. “I heard about schools like University of Michigan and Wayne State University, but when I looked further into them, I noticed how big they really were.” 

Harhara received scholarships to multiple institutions, but he recognized that working with his teachers one-on-one was an experience he needed.  

“A representative from University of Detroit Mercy wanted to come speak with me,” Harhara said. “He was telling me about the smaller class sizes and that it would give me the access to my professors that I wanted.” 

After that, it was no question that Detroit Mercy was his top choice.  

Harhara started his journey at the University’s College of Engineering & Science as a Mechanical Engineering major and it quickly became his second home.  

“I live and commute from Melvindale, which is about a 15–20-minute drive from campus, but I might as well live here.” 

Whether it be his job at the Office of Student Life where he has been known as "the heart and soul of the office," or being an active member of the Muslim Student Association, Harhara is rarely hard to find. 

“It’s funny because I feel like I’m the famous guy around here, I always see myself in photos around campus,” he said. “One of my biggest worries was how I was going to make friends, but I can honestly say I haven’t lacked at all in that department.”   

Whether in class, through Student Life, or even just walking around campus and talking to people—Harhara goes on to say how proud he is of all the close relationships he’s made at Detroit Mercy. 

“Since freshman year, my professors and I have been so close,” Harhara said. “The faculty here is amazing.  They’re all just so knowledgeable and encouraging and always try to involve their own life experiences from out in the field in order to teach us what to expect in the real world.” 

Harhara says that same one-on-one experience he received in high school was met and exceeded during his time at Detroit Mercy. 

“I worked with Dr. Plantenberg (Kirste Plantenberg is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering) a lot and she helped me recognize and hone where I thrived most in this field which is the design aspect,” said Harhara. “I’m proud that when I go into a job interview, I can confidently say, ‘I’m really good at designing.’” 

Currently, Harhara has a job with an automotive organization that’s involved with designing fuel tanks, but he wouldn’t mind exploring other things. 

“I’m still trying to find my place in the engineering world. I’ve been considering going to get another degree in chemical engineering, but I’ve also thought about teaching,” Harhara said. “I don’t know where my path will take me, but my goal is to be a positive change in this world.” 

— By Victoria H. Taylor. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.