FLAS Fellowships

FLAS Fellows

United States Department of Education Middle East Center Foreign Language & Area Studies Fellowship Awardees

Learn more about Middle East Center FLAS Fellowships

Fall 2018

Undergraduate Awardees

 Matt MannerMatthew Manner (Arabic)
Political Science and Near Eastern Languages & Civilization
Matthew is an Air Force ROTC cadet who is developing his linguistic and regional expertise with a focus on a career in intelligence and national security. Responding to the advice of military leadership, he has taken a wide range of courses on the Middle East including courses on business and economics, water security, and Middle East literature to deepen his understanding of the people, cultures, and society that comprise the Arab world. 

 Sophie OssorioSophie Ossorio (Arabic)
Political Science and Near Eastern Languages & Civilization
An incoming freshman, Sophie has extensive experience working in the Seattle Arab-American community. She was the president of the Bellevue College Arabic Culture Student Association, which was dedicated to making Arabic and Arab culture more accessible to all. One of her main academic interests is Syrian-Russian relations, a topic she will be exploring in more depth with the aid of her fellowship. Sophie aims to pursue an MA and hopes to pursue a career in the intelligence field.


 Ryan RobinsonRyan Robinson (Arabic)
Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages & Civilization
During the summer of 2017 Ryan worked under the supervision of UW Professor Stephanie Selover at the Turkish archaeological site of Çadir Höyük. The experience cemented his desire to learn more about the Middle East and to pursue a career in archaeology where he aims to work on the preservation of sites in the Arab-speaking world, particularly in Jordan, Syria, and Iraq and to advocate for and shape policy around preserving the archaeological history of the Middle East.


 Sydney WardSydney Ward (Arabic)
Jackson School of International Studies and Near Eastern Languages & Civilization
Sydney’s research interests focus on the topic of migration out of the Middle East and North Africa into surrounding European countries. After high school, she spent nine months in Morocco on the US Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program where she saw first-hand the migration crisis as Morocco serves as a major refugee transit point to Europe. Sydney plans to attend law school focusing on immigration law with the aim of a career in international relations and public administration.


Graduate Awardees

 Oya OktasOya Aktas (Persian)
Oya is pursuing her M.A. in History. As an undergraduate, Oya focused her scholarly research on the status of women, and minorities in Turkey and how their representations could be used in shaping cultural identity. She expects to deepen her understanding of this topic by studying the status of women and minorities in Iran as she learns Persian. Oya hopes to play a role in building structures that expand human rights, strengthen the rule of law, and protect women and minorities, particularly in Turkey.


 Collin BallardCollin Ballard (Arabic)
Middle East Studies, Jackson School of International Studies
Collin is pursuing his M.A. in Middle East Studies, Jackson School, where his research interests center on how Palestinian Islamism, as a distinctly unique form of Islamism, shapes the identities of its constituents. Collin aims for a career teaching at the high school or community college level or working with a non-profit or government agency that will allow him to introduce the concepts of Islam and the Middle East to Americans in a way that stimulates empathetic understanding of the region.

 Russell GuajardoRussell Guajardo (Turkish)
Middle East Studies, Jackson School of International Studies
Russell, who is pursuing his M.A., already has substantial experience studying in Turkey having received both a Critical Language and a Fulbright scholarship to the country. He also worked as a researcher on US-Turkey relations at the Turkish Industry and Business Association in Washington, D.C. With the aid of his FLAS fellowship, Russell is undertaking an original research project on the impact of Kurdish nationalism on Turkey’s 2015 parliamentary elections as well as conducting an analysis of Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East under the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

 Sarah LawrenceSarah Lawrence (Arabic)
Public Health/Global Health
Before entering the Global Health Program to pursue a Master of Public Health, Sarah served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, where she came to appreciate the importance of understanding cultural norms and the nuances of language to the success of health initiatives and interventions. This formative experience shaped her desire to continue working in the Middle East and North Africa to ensure that underserved communities attain health equity through developing, implementing, and evaluating sexual and reproductive health programs among women and adolescents. Ideally, Sarah would like to work as in-country technical advisor at an agency working on program design or conducting research in the MENA region.

 Naomi Tachikawa ShapiroNaomi Tachikawa Shapiro (Hebrew)
Naomi is pursuing a Ph.D. in computational linguistics. Her research area is natural language processing (NLP), which is a subfield of artificial intelligence that strives to teach computers to understand and communicate in the world’s many languages. Morphologically complex languages, such as Hebrew, are under represented in NLP research. Her goal is to employ Hebrew to help the NLP community improve machine learning models that process morphologically rich languages such as Arabic, Turkish, German, and Finnish. She is particularly interested in advancing machine learning in the context of “social NLP”: using NLP to investigate and address social and political issues, such as online bullying and fake news.