2016 Incoming Students - Center for Contemporary Arab Studies | Georgetown University

2016 Incoming Students

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Rami Abdoch

Research Interests: Social theory in the context of Islamist movements; teaching Arabic as a foreign language; and Arabic linguistics

Rami Abdoch graduated cum laude with honors research from Rhodes College in 2011 with a B.A. in Anthropology/Sociology, also receiving the Frances and Edwina Hickman award in the department. He studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo and Qasid Institute in Amman as a Buckman scholar during the spring and summer of 2010. He continued studying Arabic his senior year, focusing on translating news articles from Arabic to English. His newfound interest in the region led him to complete his honors thesis “Essentializing Muslim Identity,” and a research presentation “Deconstructing Islamophobia,” both utilizing Weberian and Gadamerian theoretical concepts. Rami continued studying Arabic intensively from 2012 to 2013 in Beirut, engaging in classical Arabic poetry, rhetoric, literature, grammar, and morphology, among other subjects. He has also been teaching Arabic as a private tutor for the past two years.

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Hadeil Ali

Hometown: California & Egypt

Research Interests: Islam and Politics, Islamist movements post-Arab Spring, Islamophobia in the United States

Hadeil Ali graduated summa cum laude from Drury University in 2016 majoring in International Political Science and Communication Studies. She grew up in Egypt, Bahrain, and Qatar which developed her personal and research interest in the Middle East. She speaks Arabic, French, and Spanish. Hadeil was a student-athlete competing on her undergraduate school’s tennis team for four years. She interned at the Arab Research Center for Research and Policy Studies in Qatar as a research assistant working on the Arab Opinion Index. For her undergraduate thesis, she analyzed first page articles in three prominent US newspapers to look at the media’s role in shaping attitudes about Islam. At Georgetown, she plans on concentrating on Culture and Society in the hopes of working for the UNESCO in the future. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, hanging out with friends, and playing sports.

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Brenda Andere-Palomino

HometownMiami, Florida

Research Interests: Women and Gender in the Middle East, Muslim-Christian Relations, Comparisons between the Middle East and Latin America

Brenda Lucia Andere-Palomino graduated summa cum laude from Florida International University Honors College in 2015 and was awarded the Academic Excellence Award upon graduating. She earned her B.A. in International Relations and a minor in Political Science. She received certificates in Middle Eastern and Central Asian studies and National Security studies. During her time at FIU she conducted research for the U.S. Department of State through the Diplomacy Lab on closing and closed spaces with particular emphasize on Egypt’s government as a closing space and the impact of these characteristics on conflict and instability within the state. In 2014 Brenda traveled to Lebanon as a participant of the Back to Roots program for Lebanese descendants. Upon returning to Miami she served as an ambassador for BTR in the Unites States. In the summer of 2015, Brenda attended the University of Jordan as an FIU Ambassador Scholar to study Arabic and participate in research on the impact on Jordanian society of the inclusivity of women in the work force.

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Sopanit Angsusingha

Hometown: Bangkok, Thailand

Research Interests: 20th Century Middle Eastern History, British Mandate of Iraq, Identity Politics, Arab Nationalism, Political Islam

Sopanit Angsusingha or Dede graduated cum laude from the University of California Los Angeles with a B.A. in History and a minor in Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dede is a recipient of the Office of Higher Education Commission scholarship through the Royal Thai Government to pursue her Master’s Degree in Middle Eastern history in the USA. After graduation, she will return to Thailand to teach Middle Eastern history at Thammasat University. In 2015, she received the UCLA Undergraduate Research Fellows Program scholarship to conduct research on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s impact on the Islamic State’s ideologies and strategies. Her internship experiences at the Middle East division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thailand and the UCLA Center for Middle East Development inspired her to conduct independent research on the Obama administration’s military intervention in Libya and its implications on the administration’s policies in Syria’s civil war. In summer 2016, she was a research assistant at the Muslims Studies Center, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand where she wrote articles on the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the formation of the modern Middle Eastern states during the Western imperialism period, and the impact of JCPOA on Iran’s energy policy. At MAAS, she is concentrating in history to focus her studies on the Islamist movements and the Arab youth mobilization in the Middle East and North Africa after the Arab uprisings.

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Samah Asfour

Hometown: Buffalo, New York

Research interests: Socio-Cultural Anthropology, Women and Gender in the Middle East, Palestine/Israel, Neoliberalism, Educational Development, Current Marriage and Dating Trends, Human Rights

Born to Palestinian immigrant parents, Samah Asfour tailored her educational and career goals to reflect her Arab identity. At the University of Buffalo, Samah majored in Political Science and Global Gender Studies and minored in French. To advance her language skills, Samah studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. While there, she began conducting research for her honors thesis topic on the discrimination against Muslim women in France and their counter-public spheres. After graduating magna cum laude in May 2015, Samah embarked on a Fulbright assignment in Amman, Jordan where she lectured at Jordan Applied University. During her year teaching business English and tourism English courses, Samah also volunteered with Madrasati, a Queen Rania Initiative, where she created and implemented interactive English games for elementary education. She is also the first recipient of the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Endowed Scholarship, concentrating her graduate work on women and gender in the MENA region.

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Mark Berlin

Hometown: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Research Interests: Islam and Politics, Islamist Intellectual History, Comparative Politics, Political Violence, Social Movements, Lebanon, Iran

Mark graduated cum laude from Elon University in 2013 with a B.A. in political science and minors in Middle Eastern studies and international studies. While at Elon, he played Division-1 soccer and was a four-year letter-winner on a team that made three NCAA appearances. After graduating from Elon, Mark volunteered in Hebron and Dura village, teaching English to Palestinians of all ages. Following his time in the West Bank, he completed a Master’s program in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Hebrew University, graduating magna cum laude. In addition to living in Hebron and Jerusalem, Mark has studied Arabic in Muscat, Rabat, Amman, and Beirut and traveled to Turkey and Qatar.

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Neriman Cavdar

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Research Interests: Security, radical ideologies within socio-political structures

Neriman graduated Summa Cum Laude from Brandeis University in 2015 majoring in Politics and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. During her time at Brandeis, she was a writer and editor for the international journal. She interned at think tanks in Turkey for two summers, where she witnessed the changing political landscape of the country. Her honors’ thesis focused on Turkey’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran after the Iranian revolution. She is interested in furthering her knowledge on the security dynamics within the region. She is particularly interested in understanding how certain radical ideologies are enmeshed within political and social structures, and whether the appeal of radical ideologies is connected to systemic factors, such as the tradition of authoritarianism and the lack of rule of law and democracy, or to material factors, such as poverty and education. She is Turkish by birth and a Texan at heart.

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Agathe Christien 

Hometown: Fouesnant, Brittany, France

Research interests: Peace & Conflict Studies, Migration & Refugee Issues, Human Rights, Critical Security Studies

Agathe graduated from Sciences Po Lyon, France, where she studied International Relations and Arabic. Her interest in world affairs, and especially in the Middle East, led her to travel to Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine for language study and research internships. Agathe interned at the French Research Center in Jerusalem to complete her Sciences Po Lyon thesis about Hamas’ online discourse and communication strategies. As a Georgetown Institute for the Study of Diplomacy fellow, she conducts research on the negotiations of readmission agreements of migrants between the EU and Libya, Turkey, and Morocco. Agathe currently works as a research assistant at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security. She has also been involved and co-founded refugee integration programs in France and in Greece.



Christien, A., (2016). The representation of youth in the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine Dabiq. Journal of Terrorism Research. 7(3), pp.1–8. DOI: http://doi.org/10.15664/jtr.1201

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Sage Cunningham

Hometown:  Reno, NV

Research Interests: Islamism, Commercialization of Mecca, Islam and Democracy

Sage graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 2016, with a B.S. in Geospatial Science and Foreign Area Studies (Middle Eastern focus) with an Arabic minor.  His passion for the Arabic language and desire to better understand the intricacies of the Arab World was cultivated while at the Academy resulting primarily from several academic excursions to the region.  Upon graduation from Georgetown, Sage will attend coalition Euro-NATO pilot training in Texas and continue using Arabic throughout his career as a member of the Language Enabled Airman Program.  When not studying Arabic, Sage enjoys spending his time outdoors and practicing Arabic calligraphy.   

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Jared Davis

Hometown: Yonkers. New York

Research Interests: Minority/Majority State Relations, Marginality, Minority Education, Education as Development, Cultural/Knowledge Production, Israel/Palestine, Symbolic/Discursive Violence

Jared Davis is a filmmaker with research interests in marginality, the interrogation of multiculturalism as a social model and the lived experience of minorities in the Middle East region. Jared graduated with honors in 2014 from Trinity College (CT) with a minor in Arabic and dual degrees in Italian and International Studies. Jared previously served as an Account Coordinator with the Harbour Group, a Global Consulting Firm that develops Public Diplomacy programming for foreign governments, and worked briefly as a Programming Intern for Al Jazeera English’s Documentary Program, “Faultlines”. He aims to blend in depth research with film-making with the goal of educating media consumers through visually stimulating, original content. Jared speaks Spanish and Italian fluently and is proficient in Arabic. He one day hopes to pursue a PhD in Visual Anthropology. In his free time he likes to dance to 80’s Funk and R&B and play Spades, ask about it!

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Marissa Emory

Research Interests: Linguistic sentiments; Social/political relations between Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Levant

Marissa Emory graduated cum laude from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia with a Bachelor’s in Applied Linguistics and an Arabic minor. She surprisingly had no prior knowledge of the Middle East; her passion for Middle Eastern studies didn’t arise until after beginning her foreign language requirement for her Linguistics degree, causing a major shift in her academic trajectory. Despite differing faiths, Marissa became an influential member of GSU’s Muslim Student Association and wrote her senior thesis on the assimilation of second-generation Arab Muslim women in the U.S. Since then, she has traveled to Palestine and Morocco to further her studies of Arabic and Middle Eastern conflict and policies. Most recently, in 2016, she earned the SALAM Scholarship and studied Arabic intensively in Manah, Oman with the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic to Non-Native Speakers. Her research is based on her experience as a linguistic sentiment analyst for Georgia State University and Columbia University, and focuses on interfaith relations between Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Levant within the last half-century, and how those relations have major social and political impacts.

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Meghan Feely

Research Interests: Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Islamic social movements, identity and nationalism in the Arab world

Meghan Feely graduated summa cum laude from the George Washington University in 2015 with a B.A. in Political Communication and in Arabic Studies. Meghan first became interested in the Middle East in 2012 while studying Arabic and Middle Eastern studies in Israel at the University of Haifa. During the summer of 2013, Meghan studied intensive Arabic in Irbid, Jordan. Meghan worked as a Research and Media intern at the Jordanian Embassy in the spring and summer of 2014 and as a programs and development intern at Refugees International during the fall of 2014. Following graduation, Meghan studied Arabic in Tangier, Morocco through the Critical Language Scholarship awarded by the Department of State. Her senior thesis at GWU focused on the American media’s utilization of western cultural schemas in covering events concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Carl Fisher

Hometown: Tampa, Florida

Research Interests: Islamism, Religious Minorities in the Middle East, Security and Conflict

Carl Fisher graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2006 and earned his commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army as an aviation officer. He served in Tikrit, Iraq for one year as a helicopter platoon leader and served for one year as a company executive officer in El Gorah, Egypt, as part of the Multinational Force & Observer mission. These years solidified Carl’s interest in the Arab world and fostered a love for the Arabic people and language. Carl joined the Foreign Area Officer Corps in 2013 and was assigned to the Middle East/North Africa region. He graduated from the Defense Language Institute’s Modern Standard Arabic Program in Monterey, CA in 2014 and then worked in Jordan at the US Embassy in Amman from 2015 to 2016. Carl married his beautiful wife Alyssa in 2007, and they have five children.

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Siqi Gao

Hometown: Shenzhen, China

Research Interests: Comparative Politics, International Relations, Orientalism, China-Arab Relations, Women and Gender, Yemen

Originally from China, Siqi graduated from Wellesley College magna cum laude in 2015 with double degrees in International Relations-Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. She has spent two summers in Rabat, Morocco improving her Arabic language as well as interning at the Center for Cross Cultural Learning. During her senior year, Siqi wrote her honors thesis on China’s soft power in the Arab World through higher educational exchange.  In her free time, Siqi enjoys language learning, different forms of Arabic dancing, piano, and traveling.

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Bokum Lee

Research Interests: Refugees and resettlement

Bokum Lee graduated cum laude from the George Washington University in 2014 with a dual major in Middle East Studies and Arabic Language. Bokum spent a summer in Morocco at Al-Akhawayn University in 2012 and a semester in Jordan at Yarmouk University in 2013 studying Modern Standard Arabic. During her time in Jordan, she worked for Save the Children as a social worker in King Abdullah Park Refugee Camp and volunteered for Collateral Repair Project. Upon graduating, she worked as an interpreter for the Korean Blue House in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Washington DC. Her work experience at the International Rescue Committee-Suburban Washington Resettlement Center in Silver Spring in 2015 led her seek further studies focusing on refugee resettlement methods and management within and outside of the Arab world.

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Jennifer Lincoln

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

Research Interests: Civil Society, Cultural Anthropology, Authoritarianism, Role of Women in Political Economy

Jennifer graduated from Eckerd College in 2016 having majored in Anthropology and International Studies and minoring in Middle East Studies. Jennifer previously studied Arabic at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey’s Summer Intensive Language Program and in Ifrane, Morocco for four months at Al Akhawayn University, where her studies also focused on the politics and culture of the Maghreb. She has completed a global studies practicum at the United Nations, where she focused on global sustainability practices and human rights, and is a member of the Lambda Alpha Honor Society for Anthropology. Recently, she spent 2.5 months in Tunisia studying Arabic through a FLAS Fellowship.



Manich Msamah and the Face of Continued Protest in Tunisia

Women and Water in Morocco: Foggy Prospects

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Daniel Lynn

Research Interests: Politics, human rights, refugees, government, history

Daniel Lynn graduated from California State University Northridge in 2015. He graduated with a B.A. in History and was one of the first CSUN students to graduate with a minor in Middle East and Islamic Studies, a minor which was first offered in 2013. During his undergraduate studies, Daniel worked with the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force Division to promote awareness of the global refugee crisis. He also assisted the Human Rights Watch Santa Monica Office by helping put on documentary film screenings and by helping facilitate the organization’s Voices for Justice Annual Dinner in Beverly Hills. In addition to this work, Daniel studied Arabic through the UCLA Extension program and studied abroad at the Lebanese American University in Byblos, Lebanon. In the future, he hopes to work as a researcher for a non-profit organization.

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Alaa Faisal Mufleh

Hometown: Amman, Jordan

Research Interests: Business, development, and socio-economics policies of the Middle East; Literacy and education; Youth and women’s empowerment; Innovation and entrepreneurship

Born and raised in the beautiful city of Amman, Jordan, Alaa Faisal Mufleh, a passionate social entrepreneur, received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Al Balqa’a Applied University in 2012. Alaa has worked at a number of international non-governmental and governmental organizations including IREX, AMIDEAST, INC and the U.S. Department of State. Alaa served as the Alumni Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, managing a portfolio of over 7,500 Jordanian alumni of U.S. Government-funded exchange programs including, Fulbright, TechWomen, TechGirls, Fortune500, KL-YES, CocaCola GBI, Goldman Sachs, ACYPL, MEPI, BTL, ACCESS, UGRAD, and IVLP, among others. Prior to joining the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Alaa worked as a Scholarship Programs Assistant at AMIDEAST/Jordan, as well as director and co-founder of a youth-led organization called Abshir/Jordan that focused on the importance of mentorship. Alaa is an avid hiker, aspiring photographer and economic development enthusiast.

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Ada Mullol

Hometown: Barcelona, Catalonia

Ada was born and raised in Barcelona and discovered her passion for the Arab World after visiting Syria and Jordan in 2007 and 2010. She earned a BA in Journalism from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2013) followed by a summer program at the London School of Journalism (LSJ). Later that year, she started her MA in International Relations at the Barcelona Institute of International Studies (IBEI). Her research interests include International Relations, Politics, Security, Conflict resolution,  and Media. Through the courses and her final Master Thesis, Ada focused on Arab World studies, foreign policy, peace and conflict, and security issues. In 2015 she did a semester exchange at Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey, where she focused in media in conflict resolution and in religion and politics. Prior to starting her studies at Georgetown University, Ada completed an internship at the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) in Barcelona in the Arab and Mediterranean World department. In this think tank she conducted research on current affairs and historical events affecting the region, and was actively involved in the making and editing of afkar/ideas, a magazine specialized in the Arab World. Ada’s work has been published in national and international magazines, and she has been given an investigative journalism award. She is native speaker of Catalan and Spanish, continues studying Arabic, and has basic knowledge of French and Turkish.


Past, Present, and Future of American Muslims (2018)

Macy’s Empowers Muslim Women with First U.S. Department Store Hijab (2018)

Terrorisme, moteur du virage de la politique étrangère (2016)

Terrorismo, motor de cambio de la política exterior (2016)


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Danya Nayfeh

Research Interests: Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Danya Nayfeh graduated in 2013 from the University of South Carolina Honors College with a BA in international studies and a minor in Islamic culture and civilization. She entered her undergraduate work dedicated to learning Arabic and deepening her understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She studied for a semester at Birzeit University in the West Bank and has been committed to furthering the Palestinian cause through local activism. Through her work with the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Ramallah and UNRWA in its Jordan Field Office she solidified her belief in the value and necessity of civil society efforts geared toward improving regional respect for human rights. She is now pursuing a J.D. in conjunction with her Masters studies and is looking forward to the opportunity to conduct research on the potential for international norm adoption in the Middle East.

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Hank Pin

Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan

Research Interests: Religious Minorities, Shi’a Thoughts and Religious Movements, History of the Levant, Sectarianism in Lebanon, Christians in the Middle East

Originally from Taiwan, Hank Pin graduated from American University in 2014 with a BA in International Studies and a minor in Philosophy. During his time there, he had the opportunity to study Arabic in Amman, Jordan and later at Birzeit University in Palestine. In summer of 2016, he participated in a month-long summer language program and Institut Francais du Proche Orient in Beirut and returned to Lebanon again in 2017 to the American University in Beirut. Pin is primarily interested in religious minorities in the Arab world, sectarianism, and contemporary Shi’i religious movements.

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Kaylee Steck

Hometown: Albany, New York

Research interests: History of globalization; Arabs in Indian Ocean trade; role of colonialism in making of modern North Africa; development issues in Morocco

Kaylee is a young professional in international education with experience in program leading, teaching, and project management. She has more than two years of research and work experience in Morocco, most recently as program leader for CIEE High School Study Abroad. Kaylee was a recipient of Critical Language Scholarship (2013) for Arabic study in Morocco and Fulbright Scholarship (2014) for research on informal economy and retail development in Morocco. Her key skills include research, writing, intercultural communication, and Moroccan Arabic. She is currently coordinating Jadaliyya Maghreb Media Roundup and collaborating with a faculty member on publication. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations with a focus on Arabic and Islamic Civilization.


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Joe Walker

Hometown: Smyrna, Tennessee

Joe Walker graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2005 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and immediately commissioned as an officer in the United States Army. Also having served in Germany and Afghanistan, his interest in the Middle East was sparked by the completion of multiple combat and advisory deployments to Iraq. Upon transitioning to the Army’s foreign area officer program, he studied Modern Standard Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA in 2013-2014 and completed a short language immersion at the Institute for Leadership and Communication Studies in Rabat, Morocco. Most recently he completed a tour at the United States Embassy in Amman, Jordan working in security cooperation. As part of his role, he also conducted extensive travel throughout the MENA region, gaining wide exposure to its history, culture, politics, and religion.

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Corey Walters

Research Interests: Attitudes towards Muslims and Arab refugees, social and political movements

Corey Walters graduated from Saint Louis University in 2016 with a B.S. in Emergency Management and a minor in Middle East studies. In 2015, he studied Arabic for seven months in Meknes, Morocco on a Boren Scholarship. Drawing on his studies from abroad, Corey wrote a paper on the role that American media intervention in Iraq played in undermining Iraqi reconciliation efforts.

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Mahdi Zaidan

Research Interests: Refugee studies, economic justice, queer theory and liberation

Mahdi graduated in 2016 with a BS in Economics and a minor in Sociology with High Distinction from the Lebanese American University. In 2015 he began working as a case worker with Helem, an organization working on the legal protection of the LGBT community in Beirut. Mahdi was also a student organizer, cofounding LAU’s Intersectional Feminist club, one of the largest student lead feminist groups in the country. He’s also been part of a feminist cooperatives in Beirut, worked on HIV-prevention among young queer men and as an advocacy officer for Helem at the UNHCR in Geneva. In his free time he enjoys going out to dance, eating kibbeh ney’eh, making memes, and attempting to read Mahdi Amel.