As the new year begins, AU’s School of Public Affairs bids farewell to two visiting scholars from the Middle East and prepares to welcome a third.
Abeer Mashni returned to Palestine at the end of December, and Sarah Eldefrawi will depart for Egypt at the end of January. In February, Farah Al-Nakib, an assistant professor at the American University of Kuwait, will arrive to spend Spring semester on the D.C. campus.
All three are Carnegie Centennial Fellows, recipients of fellowships granted by SPA under the auspices of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The fellowships are awarded by universities across the U.S. to scholars from Arab universities and AU’s particular fellowship program concentrates on innovative research on urban governance, urban development, local government, social justice and the built environment. Mashni, Eldefrawi and Al-Nakib were selected by Dr. Diane Singerman, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs.
Ms. Eldefrawi, an architect working toward a PhD in urban planning at Cairo University, called her visit “a good addition to my career,” especially because it gave her the opportunity to visit American cities and see firsthand where and how people live. She had visited the U.S. only once before. Since her arrival in September, she has attended doctoral seminars at A.U. and several off-campus conferences. Dr. Singerman has provided weekly feedback on her dissertation, which addresses local governance in Egypt.
Ms. Mashni worked on her dissertation – an examination of “the role of local government in building a Palestinian state” – in close collaboration with Dr. Singerman. A doctoral candidate at the Sorbonne, she had previously attended scholarly conferences in the U.S. – at Brown University and Wellesley College. Among the highlights of her year was a three-day annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association in Denver in November. All in all, she said, this lengthier stay in the States disabused her of “preconceived ideas” – largely negative – she had about the United States.
Dr. Singerman said the Carnegie fellowships offer the scholars a respite from the “distractions and volatility” of their homelands. Most doctoral students in the Middle East are part-timers who must teach or work as consultants to support themselves. But Carnegie fellows can concentrate on their research while also meeting American colleagues, polishing their English language skills and, potentially, publishing in English. Professor Singerman is the PI for a project, TADAMUN: The Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative, funded by external donors, and all Carnegie fellows also contribute in various ways to TADAMUN’s research and policy focus.
SPA’s first Carnegie Centennial Fellow was Abdelbassir Abdelrehim Mohamed Elsayed, who visited the campus from November 2014 to March 2015. At the time, he was completing his final year as a PhD student in urban planning and design at Ain Shams University in Cairo and was heavily engaged in writing his dissertation on “Spatial and Socio-Economic Factors: Mutual Implications in Informal Areas.” An architect as well as an urban planner, he had designed a variety of buildings and participated in public- and private-sector projects on regional and urban planning.
The scholars are called Centennial Fellows in observance of the 100th anniversary of the founding, by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, of several philanthropies devoted to national and international causes.