Center News

Brahim El Guabli gives presentation about Ramadan to K-5 students at Friends Central School

The Middle East Center's Outreach Programs work with schools and colleges, community and religious groups, and the general public to raise awareness and understanding of issues in the Middle East and their importance to our communities. One such program is the Speakers' Bureau Program which puts advanced graduate students in contact with schools in the Greater Philadelphia Area. 

On June 6, 2017 Brahim El Guabli, a PhD-candidate in Comparative Literature at Princeton University, gave a presentation on Ramadan to teacher Anastasia Shown's class of K-5 students at Friends Central School within the context of the Middle East Center's Speakers' Bureau program. Brahim also brought a set of children's books about Ramadan which he donated to the school. The book donation project is part of the West Philly Coalition Against Islamophobia.

The Middle East Center participates in International Day at Franklin Learning Center

As part of its K-12 outreach program, the Middle East Center participated in International Day at Franklin Learning Center High School on June 2, 2017. This day, which is celebrated yearly, featured many impressive song and dance performances by talented students representing their countries as well as performances by Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture and the neighborhood organization Voces del Barrio. Al-Bustan was represented by the percussionist Hafez El Ali Kotain. The Middle East Center was represented by Dr. Anna Viden who gave a presentation on the Middle East Center, its mission and its various activities to the students and teachers present there.         

Rebecca Guenther is awarded the Master Teacher Fellowship in Global Education

Rebecca Guenther is awarded the Master Teacher Fellowship in Global Education for the 2017-2018 academic year.  

As a Quaker by birth, the testimonies have always been part of her life. Now, having worked at Friends' Central for over 20 years, she is able to continue the peace and simplicity of the Quakers into the classroom. 

Presently, she is a sixth grade lead adviser, teaches 6th and 8th grade, and coaches boys' and girls' tennis. She has led and piloted a program for the last 3 years for growth and feedback for the faculty of Friends Central School.

She is looking forward to share opportunities and enhance her curriculum more internationally, and more specifically, about the Middle East and South Asia.

Announcement and Call for Applications: Iran Graduate Student Workshop

To build bridges across Persian and Iranian Studies programs, scholars from New York University’s Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department and the Gallatin School (ISI-NYU), Princeton University’s Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center announce the Iran Graduate Student Workshop (IGSW). The workshop will provide a valuable venue for academic exchange and production, giving distinguished young scholars of the field an unrivalled opportunity to present and promote their research.

On May 4-5, 2018, the University of Pennsylvania will host the second gathering of this joint workshop, to be followed by similar meetings at the other campuses every two years. This second workshop in 2018 will consist of PhD students that are near ABD status and preparing their dissertation proposals (i.e., typically in their 2nd or 3rd year of graduate work). In addition, the first cohort will participate again, as discussants, in the 2018 workshop, as they approach the end of their graduate work.

Applicants for the second round, in 2018, must focus on modern Iran (roughly 18th-20th centuries), other countries of the Persianate world, or diasporas, or conduct relational histories and comparative work; and will be drawn from disciplines and programs in the humanities and social sciences, including anthropology, art history, economics, history, literature, politics, sociology, and related fields.


IGSW Purpose:

  • To provide graduate students with intellectual feedback on their research, encompassing both area studies and disciplinary critiques, twice in their graduate student careers.
  • To ensure that graduate students of Iran are aware of, and make their work accessible to, scholars from other parts of “their” area (i.e., the Middle East broadly defined) as well as from 
their own discipline, whether it be history, literature, or the social sciences.
  • To use the above points to make sure that graduating scholars who focus on modern Iran will continue to be placed, if not more frequently placed, in both area studies and disciplinary departments.
  • To help doctoral students improve skills in scholarship and teaching.

To apply, please send to the following materials by August 15, 2017:

  • One letter of recommendation from an advisor or committee member supporting the research project and attesting to the student's good standing in their program of study.
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Research proposal of 1,000 words on argument, methods, and evidence to be used in 
Decisions on applications will be sent out by September 30, 2017. If selected by the IGSW committee, participants will be expected to attend workshops in years 2018 and 2020. Travel and accommodation for accepted applicants will be provided by the IGSW.
This event is co-organized by New York University’s Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department and the Gallatin School (ISI-NYU), Princeton University’s Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center.

Ida Nitter Wins the Middle East Center Translation Contest for Turkish

 Ida Nitter won the Middle East Center Translation Contest for Turkish this year. Ida Nitter is a doctoral student in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) department. Her research focuses on nineteenth and early twentieth century Arab intellectual history and literature. She is particularly interested in how Arab writers responded to Western tropes of the Arab “Other” during the colonial and post-colonial era.

The Middle East Center Co-Organizes Workshop on Migration, Culture and Literacy Policy in Global Contexts

On May 19, 2017, Dr Joyce Pittman (Associate clinical professor at Drexel University, School of Education), Rebecca Clothey (Assistant professor, Drexel University, School of Education) and Mr. Andrew Peterson (Lecturer, English Language Program, University of Pennsylvania) led a a workshop titled Migration, Culture, Language and Literacy Policy in Global Contexts. The workshop was organized in connection with Penn-Drexel Connect Global Education Project.

The first session of the workshop focused on culture, literacy and pedagogy of learning and teaching, while the second session dealt with linguistics, less commonly taught languages and communication technologies. The second session contained hands-on activities and several presentations by students.

PhD candidate Gareth Smail is the recipient of the 2017 University of Pennsylvania-Pulitzer Consortium International Reporting Fellowship for the Middle East

Gareth Smail is a researcher and educator interested in language, teaching, and cultural politics, especially in North Africa. At Penn, he is pursuing his PhD in Educational Linguistics at the Graduate School of Education. He has lived in Morocco and Algeria.

Michael Karam is awarded an honorable mention for the undergraduate essay "The Lebanese M Community: Identities Lost (or) Found in Translation.

Michael Karam is a graduating senior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying economics and International Relations with a minor in math. Over the past year, he was the recipient of the Andrew Mellon Undergraduate Humanities Forum Research Fellowship, which enabled him to study queer language in Lebanon. Michael is passionate about building understanding and bringing people together. He loves studying literature, the relationship between media and politics, and international topics in general. Michael knows Arabic, English, and French, and hopes to one day be fluent in all 6 official UN languages. 

Middle East Center Supported Bilingualism Workshop at the Graduate School Education 

Partnering with the Teacher Education Program (TEP) at Penn’s Graduate School of Education, the Middle East Center supported the organization of a workshop on bilingualism in K-12 education on May 2, 2017. Approximately, 30 students, who are about to graduate and begin their teaching careers participated in this workshop. Dr. Donna Sharer who is currently curriculum development specialist at Philadelphia School District gave a presentation entitled: “Learning from and with Emergent Bilingual Students (English Learners).” Five former students of Dr. Sharer also shared their experiences as bilingual students studying in Philadelphia School District. 

Lauren Beard: Winner of the 2017 Undergraduate Essay competition with the essay "Mental Health Conditions of Syrian Refugees in Turkey" 

Lauren Beard is a senior from Buford, Ga studying Modern Middle Eastern Studies and Biological Basis of Behavior. She spent three years studying Turkish at Penn and went on to study at Bogazici University in Istanbul on a FLAS Fellowship. She is interested in healthcare access, the intersections of health and culture, and access to healthcare services for refugees. Following graduation, she will be working at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania as a data analyst.