Center News

The Choices Program Brings K-12 Educators to Penn Museum

On Saturday April 8 the Middle East Center in partnership with the Choices Program, Brown University, the South Asia Center, and Penn Museum had the pleasure to host 25 K-12 educators for the interactive workshop Engaging Students in International Issues: The Choices Approach. The participating teachers had the opportunity to examine and work with the Choices units The Middle East in Transition: Questions for U.S. Policy and Indian Independence and the Question of Partition which both were led by Sarah McDowell, Chair of the department of History at the Chestnut Hill Academy. The teachers also attended a lecture given by Penn Museum archeologist Dr. Salam Al Kuntar and had the chance to tour the brand new exhibit – Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Iraq and Syria curated by Dr. Al Kuntar. Contemporary artwork from Syrian artist Issam Korbaj is interwoven throughout the exhibition, which creates a powerful link between the past and the present. 

War Correspondent Scott Anderson Visits Penn

On February 21 at 6: 00 pm, Scott Anderson, a journalist and war correspondent, delivered a lecture entitled “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart” in Perry World House, which drew a large audience. The talk which was co-organized by the Middle East Center, the Pulitzer Center for Crisis reporting, and the South Asia Center, was based on the article with the same name; the longest published article to be featured in New York Times Magazine. The article is the fruit of three years of reporting of the developments in the Middle East from the 2003 intervention in Iraq until today. Around sixty attendees listened to Scott Anderson’s talk. The audience consisted mainly of Penn students and their professors. Two classes “U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East after the Arab Uprisings” and “Finding Voice: Perspectives On Race, Class & Gender were present with their professors during the talk. After the talk Scott gave generously of his time to the students who posed many thoughtful and interesting questions. The following morning Scott gave a lecture in a more intimate setting in Dr. Almallah’s morning class “Arabic Readings in the Social Sciences and the Media”. 

Asia Day Brings K-12 Students and Teachers to Penn

On Friday February 24 the Middle East Center in partnership with the South Asia Center and Penn Museum had the pleasure to host approximately one hundred forty K-12 students and their teachers at Penn Museum for “Asia Day: Understanding Asia through the lens of Media”. The students from six different high schools from the greater Philadelphia area (Penn-Crest High School, Academy at Palumbo, Central High School, Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, Bodine High School, and Master Charter Thomas) were present during Asia Day. Asia Day started out with a lecture delivered by Dr. Rahul Mukherjee entitled “Reading Between the Lines of Popular Media: A South Asian Perspective”. Following this lecture, the students had opportunities to study ancient forms of mass communication during a museum tour. They also took part in international classroom sessions. At noon staff members from the Middle East Center and the South Asia Center accompanied students to Penn’s campus where a Middle Eastern and Asian inspired lunch was being served in the Arch building. The students and the teachers had the opportunity to listen to a lecture entitled “Islam and the Middle East: How the News Media Shapes perception” by PhD student Mohammed Salih. Mohammed previously worked as a journalist covering the Middle East. There was also a Sufi performance given by Juan Castrillon, a PhD student in ethnomusicology at Penn. 

Former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley Speak at Penn

On Wednesday March 1 the Middle East Center in partnership with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, Perry World House and the South Asia Center organized a panel discussion entitled “A New Approach to the Middle East” with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, as participants. The panel discussion took place at 5: 00 pm in Perry World House.  John Sawyer, the Executive Director of the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, moderated the discussion. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley were co-chairs of the Atlantic Council's Middle East Strategy Task Force: a two-year initiative (housed within the Rafik Hairi Center) aimed at forging new policy solutions that harness the resources and human capital of the Middle East itself as a solution to state failure, civil wars, and extremist violence. Approximately 400 people attended the lecture. 

Anna Viden and Laura Zier-Ehrlich Joins Middle East Center

Dr. Anna Viden joined the Middle East Center as Program Coordinator in January 2017. She has previously held positions as Lecturer at the International Relations Program at the University of Pennsylvania and as Assistant Professor in International Studies at Charles University in Prague. Dr. Viden received her PhD in history at Sciences Po, Paris. Her research deals with U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with a specific focus on US-Saudi relations.

Laura Zier-Ehrlich joined the Middle East Center as Outreach Assistant in January 2017. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 with a Bachelor's degree in Modern Middle East Studies and Political Science. Prior to transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, Laura spent time working as a human resources manager for an investment firm and was the co-founder of a gourmet cupcake catering business. 

The Middle East Center has been re-approved to issue Act 48 Professional Development Credit

In collaboration with the South Asia Center and Center for East Asian Studies, the Middle East Center has been re-approved to issue Act 48 credit to educators who participate in our teacher training programming. Our teacher trainings enable continued professional education and now meet the requirements set forth by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to received Act 48 credit.

Some of our past teacher trainings include our week long Summer Institute such as “Using the Arts to Teach Global History, Happenings and Heritage”, “Teaching Peace & Revolution around the World as a Pedagogical Tool" and “Transnational Experiences: Engaging with World Heritage.” We also offer day long teacher trainings such as, “Islamophobia: Confronting Bias in the Classroom and Beyond and “Gendered Perspectives: Integrating Gender into K-12 Global Education Curriculum.”

Join our teacher listserv to receive the most recent updates about our programs.  

Middle East Center Islamophobia workshop is featured in PennNews

“Penn Experts Aid Grade School Teachers in Confronting Islamophobia in the classroom"

Media Contact:Jill DiSanto | | 215-898-4820

August 29, 2016

Blending interdisciplinary work with community engagement, two professors from the University of Pennsylvania are working with grade school teachers to address misconceptions and fears about Islam, as well as issues impacting students from Muslim communities. 

Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher, a senior lecturer at Penn’s Graduate School of Education, has spent the last decade studying the educational engagement and socialization of migrant populations. 

Jamal J. Elias, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of the Humanities and a professor in the Religious Studies Department in the School of Arts & Sciences, has focused his career on teaching others about Islamic thought, history and its role in modern times. 

In “Islamophobia: Confronting Bias in the Classroom and Beyond,” the first of what is hoped will be a series of workshops for teachers, Ghaffar-Kucher and Elias demonstrated how to identify and fight Islamophobia on Tuesday, Aug. 16. 

“There was an overwhelming interest in this workshop, which shows that Islamophobia in the classroom and beyond is a real issue and one that schools wish to address,” Ghaffar-Kucher said. “The teachers who attended want to incorporate workshops like these into their professional development in their own schools. There is a very clear need for such workshops throughout the country.” 

Organized by Penn’s Middle East Center, the three-hour workshop attracted nearly 40 teachers, social workers and leaders of local non-governmental organizations.  

Ghaffar-Kucher and Elias used common examples based on real-life bias-based bullying, such as young boys being called terrorists by their classmates or girls having their hijabs removed from their heads, to work through addressing bias-related acts in the classroom. 

As Ghaffar-Kucher referred to vignettes based on her research and news stories to illustrate bias, she asked attendees: “what would you do if you saw this?” In small groups, the participants worked through the examples with constructive ways to neutralize conflict and resolve the situation. 

“A lot of the teachers said these vignettes resonated with things that they’ve actually witnessed,” Ghaffar-Kucher said. 

Ghaffar-Kucher and Elias plan to continue to host similar workshops and have already been invited to speak at numerous public and private K-12 schools across the Philadelphia region.

 Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
Photo: Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
 Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
Photo: Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
 Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
Photo: Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
 Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
Photo: Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
 Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
Photo: Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences

Article as published on PennNews.

Middle East Center Spring/Summer 2016 Newsletter Published: Check out what we have been up to!

The Middle East Center Fall 2016 Newletter has been released. It includes information regarding our diverse spring semester lecture series, details on K-12 student outreach with the Public School District of Philadelphia and the City of Philadlephia Commerce Department on World Heritage Education programming, programs completed with local community colleges and HBCUs as well as our teacher training programs throughout the summer. To download the full newsletter, please click on the link below.

For more information about upcoming events please visit the homepage of the MEC website.

Middle East Center Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Ceyda Karamursel Joins SOAS Faculty

Middle East Center Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Ceyda Karamursel will be joining the faculty of School of Oriental and African Studies at the United Kingdom in fall 2014.

Dr. Karamursel’s research focuses on the practice of slavery in the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic in the second half of the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries and has been supported by the Social Science Research Council and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, among others. She is currently working on her book manuscript, which explores the Ottoman slaves’ and slaveholders’ claims to freedom, justice, equality and property with the aim of understanding the ways in which slavery shaped what citizenship came to mean in the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic. In addition to her book manuscript, she works on two smaller projects, first of which looks at the Turkish Republic's uses of the expropriated imperial "things." The second one, which also launches her second book project on how Ottoman concepts of slavery circulated in the global nineteenth century, traces the news of an American opera singer murdered in the imperial harem in Istanbul.

We congratulate Dr. Karamursel on this appointment and wish her good luck in her new position.  

Philadelphia World Heritage Lesson Plan Project

On July 11th - 22nd, ten educators of diverse backgrounds came together to design lesson plans that teach Philadelphia’s heritage and its rich relationship to the global world. For this project, the World Heritage Education Working Group partnered with two curriculum developers from the School District of Philadelphia, the South Asia and Middle East Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and the Penn Museum. The curriculum developers, who are currently working on an overhaul of the existing Social Studies curriculum, saw this as an opportune time to unpack Philadelphia’s history as well as foster a sense of global citizenship within our youth. Over the course of two weeks, participating educators researched to develop lesson plans that fit into one of four areas: World History, African American History, US History, and Civics and Government. To frame the conversation, we asked educators to consider two questions: What has Philadelphia contributed to the world and, in return, how has the world contributed to Philadelphia?

More specifically, the four overarching areas of study focus on:

● Immigration and its impact on Philadelphia and the US
● Philadelphia’s impact on government and civics home and abroad
● Philadelphia art and architecture and its connection to other cultures and countries
● Philadelphia’s contributions to the world: socially, scientifically, and economically

Using a unique lens, the educators generated 90+ historically and culturally relevant lesson plans that will positively shape the District’s Social Studies landscape. This project provided the perfect impetus to challenge our students taken-for-granted knowledge and position them to engage in a steadily globalizing market. We are grateful to our participants and partners for empowering students to think critically about their communities and heritage as well as their role in the larger world. Lesson plans are currently under review and will be accessible by fall of this year. For more information, please contact Curriculum Specialist, Shaquita Smith at  

Article written by: Nikia Brown, Global Philadelphia WHC Coordinator. Orginally posted on Global Philadlephia Association website.