Center News

The Middle East Center (MEC)Translation Contest for 2015 is now accepting submissions. This year the contest will consider original translations of modern Hebrew texts from the 20th and 21st centuries. Translations must be at least one full page of text (double-spaced) of either prose or poetry that currently do not have published English translation. Submissions will be judged on accuracy, style and grammar.

By submitting an entry, contestants agree that the translation is their original work.  Along with their translations, entrants should also truthfully indicate their level of Hebrew (one year, two years, heritage speaker, native speaker, etc.). This competition is open to graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania.

Entries can be submitted to with the subject, “MEC Translation Contest: Modern Hebrew,” by December 4, 2015 at 5 p.m. 

MEC Affiliated Faculty, Huda J. Fakhreddine, publishes Metapoesis in the Arabic Tradition

The Middle East Center would like to congratulate Huda J. Fakhreddine (Assistant Professor of Arabic Literature at the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations) on the publication of her new book, Metapoesis in the Arabic Tradition.

In Metapoesis in the Arabic Tradition, Fakhreddine expands the study of metapoesis to include the Abbasid age in Arabic literature. Through this lens that is often used to study modernist poetry of the 20th and the 21st century, this book detects and examines a meta-poetic tendency and a self-reflexive attitude in the poetry of the first century of Abbasid poets. What and why is poetry? Are questions the Abbasid poets asked themselves with the same persistence and urgency their modern successor did. This approach to the poetry of the Abbasid age serves to refresh our sense of what is “modernist” or “poetically new” and detach it from chronology.

Huda Fakhreddine is a specialist in Arabic literature. Her work focuses on modernist movements or trends in Arabic poetry and their relationship to the Arabic literary tradition. Fakhreddine has also explored Translation Studies, the politics of translation and its role in creating the image and status of Arabic literature in other languages. She holds an MA in English literature from the American University of Beirut and a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Indiana University, Bloomington.

MEC Participates in EdCamp
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Claudia Cohen Hall, Terrace Room
Williams Hall, 2nd Floor
Twitter: #edcampDVIS (for more pictures)

On Thursday, August 6, 2015, over 60 educators from across the Delaware Valley and Philadelphia area convened on Penn campus for a day-long EdCamp program, an “unconference” for K-12 teachers and administrators. EdCamp Delaware Valley Independent Schools (DVIS) was generously sponsored by Edu-Tech Academic Solutions of Malvern, PA, and co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies, South Asia Center, Middle East Center, and American Center for Mongolian Studies, at Penn.

EdCamps are teacher gatherings, or "un-conferences," that facilitate personalized professional development through voluntary, participant-driven sessions. Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the conference organizers, the agenda is created by the teacher participants at the start of the program. The EdCamp model of “unconference” began in Philadelphia in 2010, more than 700 Edcamps have been held internationally, in 25 different countries and 140 cities.

On August 17, 2015, the EdCamp Foundation announced that they are the recipients of a $2 million dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This will provide EdCamp with a path to take EdCamp to greater heights, offering opportunities for EdCamp to develop “EdCamp in A Box,” “Discovery Grants,” and Regional Organizer Summits.

Teachers who attended the EdCamp on August 6th presented on session topics including: Using the City as your Classroom, Shakespeare, Tech, and Students, Teaching Cultural Bias and Social Justice in Primary Grades, and Global Ed Resources in Philadelphia. The full schedule, along with public notes, can be found here.

Attendees showed visible excitement and energy throughout the day and post-event evaluations also demonstrated the success of the program. Of survey respondents, 76% said that they agree that EdCamp helped grow their professional learning network, 76% reported that they will implement a new idea from EdCamp into their classroom for this upcoming year, and 95% agreed that EdCamps are a great way to deliver professional development.

The Centers at Penn also believe that the EdCamp model is a strong and desirable method of professional development for K-12 teachers and administrators, and look forward to sponsoring future EdCamps for our teacher constituents.

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.

Dr. Sharkey's Seminar Explores Historical Ties between Penn and the Middle East 

Since the inception of first Arabic professorship in the United States in 1782, the University of Pennsylvania has been a pioneering institution for the study of Middle East. The Penn Museum’s engagement in the region through excavations and expeditions goes back to the nineteenth century. To explore these strong historical ties, Dr. Heather J. Sharkey, an associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, offered a freshman seminar in fall 2014. To read more about Dr. Sharkey’s seminar “Here and Over There: Penn, Philadelphia, and the Middle East” and students’ experience please click here

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)

Dr. Kashani-Sabet's Interview on Iran Nuclear Deal

The Middle East Center Director Dr. Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, Robert I. Williams Term Professor of History and an expert on Iran, was interviewed by the Brazilian weekly news magazine ISTOÉ on Iran nuclear deal. To read the full text of this interview (in Portuguese) please click here

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 Undergraduate Essay Award

The Middle East Center awarded the Undergraduate Essay Award 2015 to Nicoló Marzaro for his paper entitled “History Reoccurring in Afghanistan: How the U.S. Failed to Learn from the Past.”

Nicoló Marzaro is a sophomore studying political science and concentrating in international relations, and minoring in French. In the summer of 2015, Nicoló will be working on a research project on mortgage electronic registration system, the foreclosure crisis, and transaction costs economics with Dr. Natalya Vinokurova at Wharton’s Management Department and PURM program.

The Middle East Center also began to confer honorable mention award to an outstanding essay. This year’s honorable mention award was given to Alex DeBerardinis essay entitled “Drone Warfare and the Attack on Nation-State Sovereignty.”

Alex is currently a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences double Majoring in History and Modern Middle East Studies with a Minor in Political Science. His experience prior to joining the Middle East Center includes time at the National Constitution Center, the Global Philadelphia Association as well as his own start-up. He is extremely interested in the history, culture, languages and contemporary issues of the Middle East. In his free time, Alex is an ardent reader, a big European soccer fan and enjoys discussing and learning about World War II.


Pulitzer International Student Reporting 
Fellowship Awards 2015 

The Middle East Center and South Asia Center announces the winners Pulitzer International Student Reporting 
Fellowship.  This year's fellowships are awarded to Priya Ramchandra and Farzana Shah.

Priya Ramchandra is a junior at Penn majoring in Biological Basis of Behavior. She will be spending the summer in Kathmandu, Nepal interning with United Helping Hands as part of Penn's International Internship Program. She will be reporting on the roll out of universal healthcare in the country and exploring access and utilization.

Farzana Shah is a master’s student in the School of Nursing. She will be traveling to Tehran, Iran on a medical mission with the William Norvick Global Cardiac Alliance to provide free pediatric cardiac care to Iranian children and training medical professionals. She will serve as an IC nurse and educator. For a Penn Current article on featuring the award click here.

Photo: Journalist Alice Su is Skyping with Penn students during the award ceremony on April 16, 2015.