New Project From Michigan Ross MBA Rima Fadlallah Looks To Amplify the Voices of the Arab American Community

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Dearborn, Mich. native and rising second-year Michigan Ross MBA Rima Fadlallah grew up hearing stories about her city — home to the most concentrated Arab American population in the nation — but never from the perspective of women like herself. 

As the co-founder and host of the new podcast series “Dearborn Girl,” Fadlallah said she is determined to reclaim the narrative that has long defined “Dearborn girls” as one-dimensional, and show the world everything that the women of her community have to offer.

"If you're from Dearborn, you know when you say 'Dearborn girl,' it kind of has a negative connotation,” Fadlallah said in a recent interview with The Detroit News. "We want to create a space that showcases all of the overwhelmingly positive stories to combat that connotation.”

And she did just that. The first episode of the podcast’s first season features a conversation with Mariam Jalloul, MBA 19, and the first student from Dearborn’s largest high school, Fordson, to be accepted into Harvard's undergraduate program. Jalloul, who gave the commencement speech for her graduating class at Harvard in 2016, was the first of an impressive lineup of female guests to be interviewed on the show’s first season. Other guests include a doctor, a basketball player, and a makeup artist, among others, with one thing in common — their proud ties to the Dearborn community.

“Dearborn Girl” is just one space within the broader “For Dearborn” brand Fadlallah and co-founder Yasmeen Kadouh are developing, with an aim to create a “digital multi-media movement that inspires courageous conversation within Arab/Muslim communities globally.” 

Over the next several years, Fadlallah plans to build upon the brand, expanding outside the realm of media and entertainment. “Typical Dearborn,” another podcast in development by Fadlallah and the For Dearborn team recently won production investment at a pitch competition sponsored by WDET, Detroit’s public radio station. 

We have already begun discussing the creation of a women's co-working space (with a specific focus on the needs of Muslim women in their workspace), a paid internship program for our youth, and creating curriculum for Dearborn students to understand their identities and self actualize,” said Fadlallah.

Fadlallah acknowledges that the resources available at Ross, like the Sanger Leadership Center’s Ross Leaders Academy, have been instrumental in propelling this project forward. “Through RLA and my personal writing, I was able to heal, self reflect, walk in my purpose, and ultimately get ready to launch what had been an idea for more than a year,” said Fadlallah. 

In her second year as an MBA, she plans to continue to take advantage of the Zell Lurie Institute’s many resources including Zell Entrepreneurs, the Michigan Business Challenge, and Dare to Dream to continue to build her platform.

When asked what she appreciates most about her involvement with “Dearborn Girl,” Fadlallah said, “Being a Dearborn [read Arab/Muslim] girl was never something I was taught to be proud of, let alone empowered by. Learning to love these parts of myself has been a true game-changer in ways that no other accomplishment has. I wanted others in my community to love what it means to be us, and this motivation forced me to become the leader I have always wanted to become. I see myself in such a different light now because Dearborn Girl's mission reflects my most deeply held values as an individual.”

“Dearborn Girl” is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and Stitcher.

Read more about Rima Fadlallah and podcast “Dearborn Girl” in The Detroit News.