Center News

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.

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.

Middle East Center Translation Contest 2015

The 2015 Penn Middle East Center Translation Contest focused on the translation of contemporary Persian Texts from the 20th and 21st Centuries. The translations had to be at least one full page of either prose or poetry and were judged on their accuracy, style and grammar

This year, the Middle East Center is proud to announce Yasaman Givi as the winner of the Translation Contest. Her fantastic translation of Sohrab Sepehri’s Poem “Roshani, Man, Gol, Ab —Light, Myself, Flower, Water” was extremely well done. Sepehri practiced “New Poetry” meaning poetry that has neither meter nor rhyme. Born in 1928 and dying in 1980, Sepehri is a true poet of the 20th century. Givi herself is a third year law student at Penn.  

This is the first year of the Middle East Center Translation Contest. The award will focus on a different language from the Middle East each year. Next year’s contest will feature either Arabic, Hebrew or Turkish. 

The Center Launches Internship and Career Workshops for Students

On April 23rd, 2015, the Penn Middle East Center, with the help of Penn in Washington, hosted an Internship and Career Workshop. This workshop helped educate students from many different departments on the nature of the searching, applying and getting the internships and jobs that they want. Students from Modern Middle East Studies, the Political Science Department, the History Department and the International Relations Department were all in attendance.

Dr. Deirdre Martinez, Director of Penn in Washington, helped answer broad questions about employment in Washington D.C. and provided general advice on working in the private sector versus the public realm. Autumn Patterson, a Penn graduate, provided invaluable advice on applying to and working for the State Department.

During the Q&A session, good questions were followed up with insightful answers. It seemed as though everyone who came to the event left with a better sense of their career goals and how to achieve them.