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Outreach News

The Center has been commended by the Department of Education for its Outreach Program, which works with schools and colleges, community and religious groups, government and military institutions, and the general public to raise awareness and understanding of issues in the Middle East and their importance to our communities.

Teacher Training, "Turkey: Then and Now", successfully completed
August 21, 2015
3907 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6031

On August 21, 2015, the Middle East Center conducted a teacher-training workshop called, “Turkey: Then and Now”. The center hosted thirteen teachers from a wide range of schools across Greater Philadelphia, for an intimate and engaging workshop on teaching Turkey in K-12 classrooms. The event was also an opportunity for participants of the Middle East Center 2011 Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad , “American Issues in a Global Context: Turkey in the World”, to report back on teaching tools gained from their six week teacher training trip in Turkey.

The workshop started with a lecture from Labaron Palmer. Labaron is currently a doctoral student in the department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. His most recent academic interests have been focused on the confluence of theory and practice as it relates to the distinctive issues that are impacting major cities in the U.S., Middle East and Africa including the intersections of social equity, economic development and environmental awareness. For his portion of, “Turkey: Now and Then”, Labaron added spatial contextualization to conceptions of borders, migration and politics in Turkey, based on his experiences as a participant in the Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad and his doctoral research at Temple. He concluded his presentation by demonstrating how teachers can use cognitive mapping as a technique to incorporate geography of the Middle East into K-12 curriculums.

The workshop concluded with a talk by Julie Lenard. After over ten years in education, primarily as an English teacher in Philadelphia, Julie Lenard founded The Storyologist, LLC. The Storyologist provides writing consulting, writing coaching, workshops and helps educators use stories as a powerful education tool for teaching global curriculums. For her part of, “Turkey: Now and Then”, Julie examined different Turkish stories and perspectives from the summer of 2011, based on experiences as a participant in the Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad trip. She also presented strategies for using stories in the classroom to teach and learn about cultural identity.

Summer Institute on Transnational Experiences: Engaging with World Heritage 

This year’s global education Summer Institute, an annual week-long professional development program for teachers hosted by Penn’s National Resource Centers since 2005 (South Asia Center, Center for East Asian Studies, Middle East Center, Africa Center) focused on Philadelphia’s bid to become the first World Heritage City in the United States. The event, titled “Translational Experiences: Engaging with World Heritage” was co-sponsored by Global Philadelphia Association, a citywide organization promoting international consciousness within the region and enhancing the region’s global profile. The Global Philadelphia Association is leading the effort to make Philadelphia a World Heritage City in partnership with the City of Philadelphia’s Commerce Department.

The Summer Institute helped teachers connect Greater Philadelphia, its history and social climate to global histories and contexts.  Thirty educators from the region were selected from over 70 applicants. These educators exhibited leadership in their schools and education networks and showed a commitment to global education. Of the selected participants, 60% teach in Philadelphia School District public or charter schools, 25% teach in independent schools and 15% teach in parochial schools.

The program was held at Penn’s LGBT Center from July 13-17 and featured faculty presentations from:

  • David Brownlee, Professor of History of Art, “History of World Heritage Conservation & the ‘Case’ for Philadelphia”
  • Brian Daniels, Director of Research, Penn Cultural Heritage Center, “The Impact of UNESCO World Heritage Status & Indigenous Peoples’ Heritage Rights”
  • Ali Ali-Dinar, Associate Director, Africa Center, “Lessons from the Past: Africa’s World Heritage”
  • Pushkar Sohoni, South Asian Studies Librarian, “History of Architectural Practices in India”
  • Fariha Khan, Associate Director, Asian American Studies Program, “International Philly: Being Involved with Cultural Heritage”
  • Salam Al Kuntar, Visiting Scholar, “Human Mobility, Cultural Boundaries, Heritage & Identity in the Middle East”
  • Rashmi Kumar, Learning Instructor, Weingarten Learning Resources Center, “Tech Tools for the Global Educator”

The Institute introduced educators to the Philadelphia Folklore Project through a workshop with Linda Deafenbaugh, the organization’s Education Specialist and Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture through a panel discussion with Founder and Executive Director, Hazami Sayed. Both organizations bring global heritage arts and culture into schools.   

The educators also visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Penn Museum where they heard from museum educators and did reflective activities in the galleries. Hitomi Yoshida, Diversity Programs Manager, highlighted the Penn Museum’s International Classroom Program. As part of the program, Stephanie Mach, a grad student in Penn’s Anthropology Department, gave a presentation on Navajo and Lenape material culture and heritage.  

Fernando Trevino from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant & Multicultural Affairs presented about Philly’s new and old immigrants. Greater Philadelphia has the largest and fastest growing immigrant population of any major U.S. metro area, which is now 12% of the total population (Brookings Institution). Trevino highlighted the need to support newcomers in their integration process and the important role of teachers and schools.

Diverse and delicious lunches curated by Amelia Carter, Program Coordinator of Penn’s Middle East Center, featured Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Mexican and Senegalese cuisine.

Penn’s 2015-2016 Master Teacher Fellows in Global Education, Danielle Heeney and Sarah Sharp, shared their triumphs and challenges bringing “global ed” into the classroom. They facilitated discussions about incorporating state standards, working with limited resources, and accommodating all learners.  Kathleen Hall, Associate Professor of Education and Anthropology, came by the Institute to support the teachers and learn how best to introduce these techniques to pre-service educators in the Graduate School of Education. Globalizing teacher education through the Master Teacher Fellowship and partnering with the Graduate School of Education are key initiatives supported by the South Asia Center and Middle East Center.

The educators did a daily web discussion on the teachers networking site, Edmodo, and gave group presentations full of resources for teaching about the Middle East, Africa, Europe, East Asia & Oceania, and South and Southeast Asia. The culminating piece of the Summer Institute is a World Heritage Tool Kit, a public resource for all educators. The tool kit will include lesson plans and activities to help educators and their students develop transnational analysis in their classrooms by using world heritage as a framework to understand global regions across disciplines. The World Heritage Tool Kit will be released this fall during GlobalPhilly15, an exposition of all things international organized by Global Philadelphia Association.

Anastasia Shown, lead organizer of the Summer Institute, said that this year was one of the best yet. “The educators really absorbed the material and felt honored to be part of such an important moment in Philadelphia’s history. They also learned that the city has so much to offer in terms of global education.” Shown looks forward to working with the educators and their classrooms throughout the year as part of her outreach work at the South Asia and Middle East Centers.

One of this year’s participants said, “this workshop has deepened my own personal knowledge base on world heritage and the various world regions/cultures that were discussed.  As a result, I feel more confident in my teaching.  I also learned different approaches/resources that I can use to bring global awareness into the classroom and connect with the city of Philadelphia.” 

Another participant shared, “I gained so much from this workshop and it is hard to quantify the knowledge. I gained new awareness of world heritage sites and process, history, pros and cons, and criterion. I benefited immensely from the range of speakers and topics. The coordinators of the seminar provided an immense array of viewpoints and concrete information, and tied all into Philadelphia as a possible world heritage city as well as UNESCO/World Heritage Sites in general. There is so much to contemplate.” 

Another concluded, “I learned how to incorporate global heritage in other subjects, not just social studies. I now have a better understanding of global heritage and many different regions from around the world that make me a more confident and knowledgeable teacher.”

For more information visit the Summer Institute website:

Nutter continues push to make Philadelphia World Heritage City (Newsworks)

Global Education Workshop at Camden County College

The Middle East Center raises awareness among K-12 educators about the region and assists them in internationalizing their curriculum through teacher training programs in global education.

Most recently, the Center organized a two-day teacher-training workshop (July 15 through 16, 2015) entitled Teaching About the Middle East, South and East Asia in partnership with the Center for Civic Responsibility and Leadership at the Camden County College. The workshop was also co-sponsored by the American Center for Mongolian Studies, American Research Institute in Turkey South Asia Center, Center for East Asian Studies, and South Asia Center. Fourteen K-12 teachers from six New Jersey school districts (Camden and Burlington Counties), attended the workshop that provided NJ professional development credit.  

Four area studies specialists including Dr. Michael Boyle (Assistant Professor of Political Science, LaSalle University), Dr. Larry Goodson (Professor of Middle East Studies, Army War College), Mr. David Dettmann (Director, American Center for Mongolian Studies), and Dr. Pushkar Shoni (South Asian Studies Librarian, University of Pennsylvania) presented on a range of topics and answered questions from participants. Topics they covered included the roots of social revolutions, international security, Muslim minorities of East Asia (Uighurs), and South Asian culture and history.

Teachers also had the chance to work one-on-one with a professional international education consultant Dr. Brandon Wiley, Founder/President, GlobalEdLeader. On the final day of the workshop, Dr. Wiley presented on how to create an international curriculum. He then led an interactive session with the teachers and worked with them creating new curriculum based on the topics covered by the area studies experts. 

The Center thanks Mr. Jack Pesda and Mrs. Barbara Palmer at the Camden County College for their work in organizing this successful educator workshop.

Photo: Dr. Wiley presenting on global education during the workshop.

Announcing the Winners of the 2015 Master Teacher Fellowship in Global Education!

The Middle East Center and South Asia Center are pleased to announce this year's winners of the Master Teacher Fellowship in Global Education: Danielle Heeney of Penn Treaty School and Sarah L. Sharp of William Penn Charter School.  Congratulations!

Danielle Heeney was born and raised in Philadelphia among a family of teachers. She has been a special education teacher in the Philadelphia School District for ten years and is now the Special Education Liaison at Penn Treaty School. In the last ten years, she has had the opportunity to work with students with learning, emotional/behavioral, intellectual disabilities and autism. The growth and progress of her students has inspired her to keep learning, both in the classroom and out. She is pursuing a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Management with a concentration in Special Education as part of the Urban Special Education Leaders of Tomorrow (USELT) project. Heeney takes advantage of school breaks by traveling, her other great passion. For example, she has participated in two Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad in Ethiopia and Morocco. She earned her TESOL certification in Ecuador, completed a special education course in Malaysia, and led teacher training in Ghana. She enjoys learning about other places and cultures and brings these experiences back to classroom.

Sarah L. Sharp is a social studies teacher in the upper school at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, where she teaches 9th, 11th, and 12th grades. Over the past decade, she began to travel internationally on a regular basis, taking a trip every other year or so.  Her hope has been that she would move well beyond what she could read, and bring home new awareness to energize her teaching and understanding of global citizenship.  Trips to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, as well as to Cuba, have formed the foundation for her courses in Global Studies.  She has used both blogging and photography, among other media, to create class projects and exhibits.  Ms. Sharp holds a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego, where she specialized in U.S. and Latin American history.

The Master Teacher Fellowship in Global Education is awarded annually to two K-14 teachers in the Delaware Valley who have shown substantial commitment to incorporating global studies into the school or classroom.  Each fellow will receive a $500 stipend to be used for conference/training registration, travel to a conference/training, or classroom materials.  The Master Teacher Fellows will also serve as ambassadors for the Centers from April 2015 - April 2016 and lead one public workshop for pre-service and current educators.

Western Asia Day at Penn

On March 24th, 2015, the Middle East Center hosted several students and their teachers from Moorestown Friends School as part of the its K-12 outreach programs. Students and teachers were particularly interested in learning about Middle Eastern countries and their cultures. To provide the visiting students with a diverse wealth of information on the subject matter, three Penn graduate students presented on the region and two major Middle Eastern countries. Osman Balkan, PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science, made a general introduction to the Middle East. Two other Penn graduate students Basak Taraktas (PhD Candidate in Political Science) and Ali Karjoo-Ravary (PhD Candidate in Religious Studies) talked about Turkey and Iran respectively. At the end of their presentations Penn students led a Q & A session with the high-schoolers and their teachers. The Middle East Center periodically hosts K-12 students or send qualified graduate students to schools in the greater Philadelphia area to enhance the knowledge about the region among K-12 educators and students.

2015 International Women's Day

On Wednesday, March 4th, International House Philadelphia hosted the extremely successful 2015 International Women’s Day.  A collaboration between numerous organizations including Penn’s Area Studies Centers, Penn Women’s Center, Asian American Studies, Graduate Center and Family Resource Center, International Women’s Day brought together over 100 people to listen to guest speakers and discuss this years theme “Global Migrant Rights and Justice.”  Five speakers, all of whom brought different expertise and unique experiences to the discussion, addressed the audience.  Ayodele Gansallo (Immigration Attorney and Educator), Mia-lia Kiernan (Founder and Organizer of 1 Love Movement), Shamaine Daniels (Harrisburg Councilwoman), Silvia Huerta (Student Activist) and Fariha Khan (Associate Director of Penn’s Asian American Studies and Event Moderator) each spoke on their respective areas of expertise and answered questions from the audience in an extraordinarily passionate and lively Q&A.  Guests were also treated to dinner, dessert and refreshments.  The evening’s program was opened by a wonderful performance from the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir, a vocal ensemble dedicated to celebrating “the diversity of women’s lives and culture.”

Penn Middle East Center and South Asia Center Launch New Pulitzer International Student Reporting Fellowship Program

On February 5th, the South Asia Center, the Middle East Center, and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting hosted a two-part event to officially launch the Pulitzer International Student Reporting Fellowship Program.  The event, co-hosted by South Asia Center Assistant Director Dr. Raili Roy and Middle East Center Associate Director Dr. Mehmet Darakcioglu, served as an information session for students interested in international reporting. Additionally, the Centers screened No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, International Emmy Award Nominee and Winner of a 2014 BRITDOC Impact Award, and played host to the filmmaker, Callum Macrae.

The event gave students the opportunity to learn about the Pulitzer International Student Reporting Fellowship, a program co-sponsored by the South Asia Center and Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. The event provided essential information to potential applicants: 

  • Any Penn student who is going to South Asia or the Middle East over the summer of 2015 is welcome to apply.  Previous journalism experience is not a requirement but an open mind and a willingness to write, photograph and/or create videos is necessary. Center editors will work closely with the fellows on storytelling strategies, reporting methods and travel logistics. The fellows will participate in a Pulitzer Center-conducted workshop before leaving as well as mentorship and editorial support in the field.
  • The 2 winning fellows, one focused on South Asia and one on the Middle East,  will complete news articles, short videos, slideshows or other media products, with editorial support and mentorship. The fellows will help illuminate another part of the world for the Penn community and beyond. The fellows’ work will be published on the Pulitzer Center site and possibly other outlets. The fellows will also be expected to participate in outreach efforts for the South Asia Center or Middle East Center upon return to campus.
  • The winning fellows will receive $500 upon completion of the deliverables, plus invaluable editorial support and mentorship
  • Application Deadline is March 31st, 2015

Students were also treated to a screening of No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka as well as a panel discussion with No Fire Zone filmmaker Callum Macrae and Penn South Asia Studies Professor Teren Sevea.  They discussed the ongoing quest for truth, justice and accountability in the aftermath of Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war.

For more information on the Pulitzer International Student Reporting Fellowship Program, or to download a fellowship application, please visit   You may also want to visit the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

Penn Area Studies Centers Host "Asia Day" for Local High Schools

In partnership with the Penn Center for East Asian Studies, the South Asia Center and the Penn Museum, the Middle East Center co-sponsored “Asia Day” for local area high school students on February 11th, 2015.  Approximately 120 students from four area high schools participated in the daylong program.  This year’s Asia Day theme was “The Many Faces of Islam.”  Students listened to lectures, participated in Urdu and Arabic language classes, and took a tour through the Penn Museum.  The visiting students interacted with Penn staff and graduate students, took part in Q&A sessions and learned about a number of world regions. 

Following the morning session, the visiting students enjoyed a lunch featuring South Asian and East Asian cuisine.  After lunch, the students were treated to three different performances highlighting unique aspects of Asian and Middle Eastern culture.  Juan Ibrahim Castrillion, a Penn PhD student in Ethnomusicology, performed traditional Sufi music playing instruments such as ney and bendir.  Ibrahim Miari, a Lecturer of Modern Hebrew at Penn, performed a traditional Whirling Dervishes dance, accompanied by music performed by Mr. Castrillion.  Finally, the daylong program closed with a performance by Penn Masti, the university’s premier South Asian co-ed fusion dance team. 

MEC Hosts Students from Church Farm High School

On December 10, 2014 the Middle East Center hosted eight students and their teacher from the Church Farm School High School (Exton, Pennsylvania). The students, who are currently taking a class on the Middle East, wrote a policy paper on United States foreign policy options concerning the ongoing crisis in Syria. The Center’s Associate Director Dr. Mehmet Darakcioglu and Student Researcher Alex deBerardinis shared their feedbacks about the paper, each providing constructive criticism and in-depth information on the subject material. The event brought together enthusiastic students willing to learn about the Middle East and the Center staff willing to share their knowledge about the region.

Speakers Bureau Program at the Middle East Center

The Middle East Center runs a robust Speakers Bureau Program in the greater Philadelphia area. Our Speakers Bureau program aims to help K-12 students and educators expand their knowledge about the Middle East.  Between September and November 2014, the Center arranged for four Speakers Bureau visits to schools including Motivation High School and Julia Masterman Middle and High School. Advanced graduate students Alon Tam and Carolyn Brunelle shared their knowledge about the region with K-12 students and their teachers during their visits to these schools.


Just to highlight one of these visits, on September 17, 2014, James Ryan, Ph.D. Candidate at The University of Pennsylvania, was the guest lecturer for Jake Greenberg’s Modern Middle East class at Moorestown High School. Mr. Greenberg’s course involves a survey of Middle East history from World War I to the war in Iraq. Major themes include: the emergence of nation states after colonialism; long-term historical, technological, and cultural trends in the region; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Islam and the West; and North Africa’s burgeoning societies. Students learn from a number of guest lecturers and take various field trips to experience Middle Eastern life in America.


Mr. James Ryan who researches the late Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey led a general discussion about the Middle East. For more information on this Speakers Bureau visit please click here and here.