Q&A with Charles Kiamie (MAAS ’04)

Charles Kiamie

Charles Kiamie is the Acting Director of USAID’s Office of Local Sustainability, which focuses on deepening the agency’s partnerships with local and US-based development actors. He also teaches in the Elliott School at George Washington University. Charles previously worked for the US Department of State and obtained an M.A. in Arab Studies and a PhD in Government from Georgetown University in 2004 and 2008, respectively.

What led you to work at USAID in addition to teaching at GW?

I have long had an interest in public service. A graduate internship at the US Embassy in Amman, Jordan in 2003, in the middle of my MAAS program, was my gateway to federal service. At the same time, I enjoy teaching and, after doing so for so many years, find that many students have become professional colleagues and even friends. I’m particularly thrilled to teach at George Washington University, my alma mater.

How did you become interested in the MENA region?

A passion for the region is in my blood. A fourth-generation Arab-American, I have memories of creating dioramas about Lebanon in elementary school. I learned essential Arabic words and phrases from my grandmother, especially ones related to our famous cuisine.

What’s a typical day for you?

Every day is different for me at the US Agency for International Development (USAID). I have long focused on MENA regional affairs for the agency but have also come to care for more bureaucratic things, like foreign assistance reform and innovative procurement methods, including those that are bringing new partners into the fold. As a professor teaching night classes year-round, on the other hand, I am intimately connected to some of the issues that by day can seem more distant.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects about your jobs?

My work with the federal government has, for more than eleven years, been largely MENA-focused, meaning I have had no shortage of challenges and opportunities to address with my diplomatic and development colleagues. In the classroom, I am consistently pleased by the caliber of my students and their dedication to the study of MENA.

How do you balance working at USAID in addition to being a professor?

I teach one or two nights each week and have enjoyed the support of many wonderful graduate teaching assistants over the years. I make a point, regardless of weather, to walk from my office downtown to Foggy Bottom and use the time to clear my head and mentally prepare for the class ahead. I do the same thing, of course, on the Metro ride to Arlington, where my wife and children await my return.

 

By Brittni Foster

Brittni is a sophomore at Tufts University majoring in Arabic/Middle Eastern Studies/International Relations. She wrote this Q&A while interning at CCAS during the summer of 2017.