- Middle East Initiative, Belfer Center

Middle East Initiative Mosaic 2017-2018

| December 20, 2018

The 2017-2018 issue of the Middle East Initiative Mosaic newsletter highlights MEI programs and activities during the academic year. This year's issue features the innovative and exciting work of students, fellows, faculty, and staff on public policy issues in the Middle East, including a focus on the community of scholars at MEI and stories on our faculty research program, alumni connections, students' experiences, and more!

Read the full Mosaic newsletter below.


Faculty Chair's Welcome

Greetings  سلام  שלום  مرحبا  ⴰⵣⵓⵍ Merhaba,

The previous academic year was one of milestones for the Middle East Initiative, which in 2018 celebrates its twentieth anniversary. In September 2017, we mourned the passing of John P. White, who led the program for nine years—from 2001 to 2010—and helped build it into the globally esteemed program that it is today. John was a valued colleague, friend, and university citizen whose fingerprints are to be found not just on the Middle East Initiative, but throughout the Kennedy School. This last year also marked the passing of the torch by John’s successor as chair of the Middle East Initiative, Ambassador Nick Burns, who ran the program for eight years and secured major gifts that have allowed us to expand our fellowship and faculty research programs. As I assume leadership of this program, I am humbled by what my predecessors have achieved, daunted by the magnitude of the task yet before us, and excited about the possibilities for growth and learning.

I am also grateful to work with the outstanding team my predecessors assembled: Executive Director Hilary Rantisi, Assistant Director Julia Martin, student and outreach coordinator Maura James, and communications and events coordinator Christopher Mawhorter. The specialized titles these individuals hold belie the broad roles they play in making the program such a success: Hilary brings passion and dedication to all that we do. Julia helps keep everything running on time, on budget, and according to the best practices of Harvard University. Maura is our bridge to Kennedy School students, constantly innovating in the ways in which we bring the Middle East to them (and them to the Middle East). And Chris not only plans our events, but crafts much of our written material and media presence (including the document you now hold in your hands).

As you read this sixth edition of Mosaic you will see what these remarkable people have built. One measure of the program’s success and dynamism is the pace and range of the events we convene. Last year the Middle East Initiative hosted 46 public events that covered a broad array of trends and perspectives in the region. Local experts at Harvard addressed the many earthshaking geopolitical events that befell the region this year, from Doha to Jerusalem to Riyadh to Beirut. A series of book talks brought valuable perspectives on the region’s political, economic, and social developments. Discussions with leading policy experts and former practitioners sharpened our grasp of contemporary crises and future prospects. Our film series brought potent social observations from distinctive vantage points in Israel, Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran, Palestine, and Tunisia. And two academic conferences and two year-long research seminars kept us in touch with cutting-edge scholarship from down the hall to across the globe. 

While we are always proud of our activities, our core objective remains to support cutting edge research on the challenges facing the region. We do this in a number of ways. Our research fellowship program has brought 30 early career scholars to the Kennedy School to finish their dissertations, write books, and produce new research. This past year’s crop of fellows is particularly distinguished—as one might expect from a program that boasts a 5% acceptance rate—and is featured on pages 11-13. We have also hosted more than 15 visiting senior scholars and practitioners on campus for terms varying from a few weeks to an entire year. Last year, we were pleased to welcome as a senior fellow Dr. Salam Fayyad, former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority from 2007 to 2013, who this coming year will lead a study group on the prospects for democracy in the Arab world. We also support research through our grants program, which since its inception has funded 53 projects by faculty members across 7 of Harvard’s 15 schools. These projects include work by Professor Melani Cammett (Harvard Department of Government) on citizens and security threats in the Middle East, Belfer Center co-Director Eric Rosenbach (Harvard Kennedy School) on technology and governance in the Arab world, Professor Kristin Fabbe (Harvard Business School) on citizen prejudice toward Arab and sub-Saharan African migrants in the Middle East and North Africa, Professor Frank Hu (Harvard School of Public Health) on policies to limit the consumption of sugary drinks in Kuwait, and a project by the late, esteemed Professor Peter Rogers (Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) on using technology to promote equitable water use in Morocco.

A wise person once said that a common mistake new leaders make is that, when asked for their vision, they give it. I am not one to ignore good advice. But I will say my fondest hope for the Middle East Initiative is for it to contribute to the mission articulated by the Kennedy School’s Dean, Doug Elmendorf, in his 2018 letter to the School community: “to improve public policy and public leadership across the United States and around the world, through a combination of research, teaching, and direct interaction with practitioners.” In pursuit of this goal, the coming years will see the Middle East Initiative embrace more of the region in its research and programming, from Morocco in the west to Afghanistan in the east, from Turkey in the north to Sudan in the south. They will also see us expand into new substantive areas. In keeping with Belfer Center Director Ash Carter’s charge to apply our intellectual capital to a “fuller range of science and technology issues” than has hitherto been the case, the Middle East Initiative will explore the implications of the dramatic technological and climatic changes that have marked the opening years of this century, and which seem poised to alter profoundly the lives of the peoples of the region and the world.

The Middle East Initiative could not do everything we do, and plan to do, without the generosity of our supporters, who provide the resources necessary to catalyze the very best policy-oriented scholarship on the region. This coming year marks important milestones for two of our most important programs: the seventeenth anniversary of our Kuwait Program and the fifth year of the Emirates Leadership Initiative. In addition to continuing our work on those critical programs, this year will also see the launch of a new cross-campus initiative on religion, peace, and conflict in the Middle East; a new fellowship program for students from Palestine; among other activities.

As you flip through the pages of Mosaic, I hope that you are as energized and as excited by what is in them as I am. I hope also that you will be inspired to share with us your ideas and insights as the Middle East Initiative embarks on its next twenty years.

--Tarek Masoud, Faculty Chair, Middle East Initiative


Middle East Initiative Mosaic 2017-2018
Editor: Christopher Mawhorter, Communications and Events Coordinator
Designer: Delane Meadows
Tarek Masoud, Faculty Chair
Hilary Rantisi, Director
Maura James, Student and Outreach Coordinator
Julia Martin, Research and Financial Coordinator
With special thanks to photographers Bennett Craig, Tom Fitzsimmons, Martha Stewart, Nathalie Montaner, Hani Mohammed, Vivian Tian, and Raychel Casey
For more information on this publication: Please contact Middle East Initiative
For Academic Citation: Mawhorter, Christopher, ed. Middle East Initiative Mosaic 2017-2018. Middle East Initiative, Belfer Center December 20, 2018.

Editor