Center News

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.

The Middle East Center would like to congratulate Dr. Feride Hatiboglu for being voted among the top five best professors at Penn!

In a ranking of the top 30 Penn professors, based on Penn Course Review data collected between 2009 and 2015, Dr. Hatiboglu scored a 3.94 out of 4.00 from student particpants. 

Born in Ankara, Turkey Dr. Hatiboglu spent early part of her life in Istanbul where she earned a law degree from Istanbul University Faculty of Law. She then started working in the field of banking which was undergoing structural reforms in Turkey during the mid to late 1980s. Having moved to USA in mid 1990s she took some time off to complete Ph.D in Banking & Insurance from Marmara University in Istanbul. Subsequently she joined Penn at PLC to start a Turkish language teaching program, which in a few years became a successful multi-leveled language program with Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced programs under NELC. Most recently, 2 years ago an Ottoman Language course has been added under the Turkish Language program. Dr. Hatiboglu is dedicated to teaching a fast-paced language teaching program and has been instrumental in getting her students awarded with scholarships in Turkish language and culture programs with different Turkish and US institutions. She is an active member and Treasurer of American Association of Teachers of Turkic and member of Penn Language Center and American Research Institute in Turkey. She has full Oral Proficiency Interview and Writing Proficiency Test Certification for Turkish from American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and an active consultant to American Councils in International Education in developing Turkish language testing programs.

The Middle East Center is pleased to announce the Master Teacher Fellows for 2016. Varley S. Paul from, Plymouth Meeting Friends School, and Melanie Manuel, from Science Leadership Academy, are the Master Teacher Fellows for 2016.

The Master Teacher Fellowship in Global Education is awarded to two K-14 teachers in the Delaware Valley who have shown substantial commitment to global studies in their school or classroom.

Each fellow receives a $500 stipend to be used for conference/training registration, travel to a conference/training, classroom materials, etc. The Master Teacher Fellows serve as education ambassadors for the University of Pennsylvania's South Asia and Middle East Centers from April 2015 to April 2016 and lead one public workshop for pre-service and current educators. Upon completion of the fellowship, a brief report will be required.

Learn More About Our 2016 Fellows:

Varley S. Paul is a 6th grade teacher at Plymouth Meeting Friends School. Varley has been teaching for 35 years. She graduated from St. Lawrence University and has a MS in Intercultural Communication from the University of Pennsylvania. She served in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica from 1980 to 1984 as a teacher of their School Gardens Program. She worked seven summers with the Windsor Mountain International Camp and Global Routes, leading community service and cultural programs for teenagers in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. She helped establish two of their programs in Costa Rica and Ecuador, both of which are still running. More recently, she participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks Workshop: Empires of the Wind: Pacific Maritime History, in San Diego, California. Her teaching philosophy is influenced by many amazing experiences in the United States and abroad such as participating in a college semester in Kenya, living in Costa Rica, and working throughout the years with an amazing array of people who dedicate their lives to education. An important component to Varley’s teaching is giving students experiential education opportunities. Aside from teaching, Varley is a writer and artist, is passionate about history, archaeology, and anthropology. She enjoys movies, rock climbing, and snorkeling.

Varley is interested in creating professional development workshops for teachers that

A) Introduce tech tools to connect with classrooms and professionals abroad and how to use the tools to supplement or enrich curriculum

B) Develop exchange, travel or intercultural partner programs whether in the city, across the U.S. or overseas. 

Varley plans to use her $500 award for continuing education. She is interested in courses and conferences focusing on technology, diversity training, and global education in general. She would also like to visit schools and network with peer educators to learn more about best practices and knowledge transfer. She would like to develop a way to share her findings with peer educators for further discussion and/or brainstorming. 

Melanie Manuel is a Spanish teacher at Science Leadership Academy, a partnership high school between the School District of Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute. Melanie is also a lecturer at Penn's Graduate School of Education where she teaches World Language methods courses. Melanie has degrees in International Business and Education (MS). She studied Bilingual Intercultural Education at la Universidad del Valle in Sololá, Guatemala, learning alongside Mayan educators how to teach traditional and cultural literacy in Spanish and indigenous languages. Under the auspices of fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, she studied 16th century Spanish literature in Spain and Hispanic Caribbean literature at Hunter College in NYC. These opportunities developed her ability to teach Spanish through a more global lens, incorporating both peninsular and Latin American perspectives and resources. Every summer (and occasionally spring breaks) she leads international education programs for high school students from around the world on topics such as global leadership, language & culture, the impact of free trade on border communities, human rights, and environmental sustainability. As the recipient of a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching, Melanie spent the spring semester of 2015 in Chile researching street art and investigating how it can be used to teach language and culture. This summer she will ride her bike through Cuba with a filmmaker to create resources she and other educators can use to teach about Cuba.

Melanie is interested in creating professional development workshops for teachers on

A) How to use Google Maps to support hands-on inquiry and data discovery for research projects 

B) "Cuba through Photography and Film" at educators conferences such as EduCon, Teachers for Social Justice, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and the School District of Philadelphia District-Wide PD. 

Melanie plans to use her $500 award to develop curriculum, resources and materials and to support her registration fees to present her work at conferences.

MEC congratulates Natalie Au and Rachel Townzen on being named the Pulitzer International Student Reporting
 Fellows of 2016. As recipients of the fellowship they will be required to complete news articles, short videos, slideshows or other media products on the Middle East or South Asia. On their reporting trips abroad, they will receive editorial support and mentorship from Pulitzer Center editors. Their work will be published on the Pulitzer Center site and they will receive a $500 award upon completion of the deliverables.

The Campus Consortium partnership between Penn's Middle East Center & South Asia Center and the Pulitzer Center is a partnership featuring programming to foster broader discussions and nuanced analysis of concerns that span disciplines, from journalism and business to law, religion and public health. The fellows will help illuminate another part of the world for the Penn community and beyond.

Natalie is a junior double majoring in Political Science and East Asian Area Studies, and minoring in Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies. On campus, she is the founder and director of the Penn Human Rights Conference, and has served on the boards of Penn for Liberty in North Korea, Seneca International, and Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity. Off campus, Natalie has worked with the One Country Two Systems Research Institute in Hong Kong, as well as Mother’s Choice, a reproductive justice non-profit. She is very interested in the intersection between social justice and technology, and is very excited to learn more about the topic in researching for her project, “DevelopHER: Women, Tech, and Social Impact in India.”

Rachel is a Masters of Social Work student at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice, also pursuing an interdisciplinary certificate in Global Human Rights. She is the rising president of the Social Work Advocates for Immigrant Rights, secretary of the AGBU-Young Professionals chapter in Philadelphia, and member of Penn Law's International Human Rights Advocates. Since graduating from Boston College in 2014, Rachel has worked in various capacities with refugees and asylees in the US and Armenia. She will be working as a knowledge management intern with UNICEF Jordan this summer as she completes her reporting project, which will explore issues related to obtaining civil documentation, protecting family identity, and preventing statelessness among refugees. She hopes to spend her career serving refugees and others in need of international protection, with a special interest in using data analytics to shape legislative and policy decisions to advance human rights.

We are excited to see the outcome of Rachel and Natalie’s Pulitzer project when they return from their travels this fall. To read about the work of past Penn Pulitzer fellows, please visit the Pulitzer Center website

Dr. Harun Küçük Delivers the Dean's Lecture at the Mongomery County Community College

Middle East Center continues to expand its outreach efforts to new partners. Most recently, we collaborated with the Montgomery County Community College for a major event. Our affiliate faculty Dr. B. Harun Küçük, from Penn’s Department of History and Sociology of Science, gave the Dean’s lecture at MCCC on April 12, 2016. Dr. Küçük’s lecture entitled Fleeing the Inquisition: European Refugees in Istanbul in 18th Century was well attended by more than fifty people. After discussing the plight of refugees who fled Europe for religious persecution and settled in the Ottoman Empire in his lecture, Dr. Küçük also answered questions about the Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey and Europe. 

Global Distinguished Lecture Draws Crowds to Discuss Syrian Migration

At the National Resource Center's annual Global Distnquished Lecture event, "Lessons from the Great Syrian Migration," New York Times journalist, Anemona Hartocollis, discussed her experience following a group of refugees from the Greek Island of Kos to Denmark. We had a full audience with more than 100 attendees and a vigorous discussion about one of the greatest human rights crises of our time. She explored the struggles, hopes and desires of people she met along the way and pondered the unknown outcomes of this mass exodus from the Middle East, asking what can we learn from this historic movement of people?

Ms. Hartocollis was born in Lausanne, Switzerland and grew up in Topeka, Kansas. She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. Hartocollis has won awards from the Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page Award, the New York State AP Writing Contest, the Society of Silurians and the Deadline Club of New York Award, among others. Before coming to work as a journalist for the Times, Hartocollis was a reporter and feature writer for the Daily News in New York, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Detroit News. She is the author of Seven Days of Possibilities: One Teacher, 24 Kids and Music that changed their Lives Forever.

You can follow Ms. Hartocollis' work at the New York Times here

Two Modern Middle Eastern Studies Students Win the Thouron Award.

The Thouron-University of Pennsylvania Fund for British-American Student Exchange was created to promote better understanding and closer friendship between the people of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Through the exchange progarm students of exceptional ability from the University of Pennsylvania receive the Thouron Award to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom.

The Middle East Center is pleased to announce that two of the three awardees this year are Modern Middle Eastern Studies students.

Jade Huynh is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences majoring in Modern Middle Eastern Studies, who is also pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies in Global Human Rights. Her honors thesis, The Time-Honored Friendship, maps out a history of relations between Vietnam and Algeria from the beginning of the Indochina War in 1946 to the present day. Her academic and professional interests lie in labor rights and livelihood opportunities for forcibly displaced populations living in the Middle East, and particularly for Syrian refugees, whom she has worked directly with. Jade has served as a volunteer English tutor for Palestinian refugees living in Baqa’a refugee camp; interned for the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration in the Office of Assistance for Europe, Central Asia, and the Americas; and worked with the Jordanian office of International Catholic Migration Commission, an international humanitarian NGO. Upon graduating, she will be pursuing the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the University of Oxford.

Angela Perfetti is a senior majoring in Modern Middle Eastern Studies with a minor in Chemistry. Her interests are in Medical Anthropology, on the intersections of society, culture, and medical practice. She will be studying Medical Anthropology at Durham University on the Thouron Award. Her previous research has focused on women’s health, health disparities, and environmental justice. Currently, she is working on a collaborative project that examines the ways in which qualitative methods are being used in patient-centered outcomes research, with the goal of informing funder guidelines and investigator research design. She is also working with a community health clinic in North Philadelphia to understand Iraqi refugees' perceptions of and decisions about seeking primary healthcare.