United States Department of Education Middle East Center Foreign Language & Area Studies Fellowship Awardees
Learn more about Middle East Center FLAS Fellowships
Hafsah Math (Arabic) is planning to major in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Early Child & Family Studies. She hopes to improve her language skills to become better equipped to positively impact a new generation of students as an elementary school teacher. She also aspires to teach abroad and challenge perceptions of what a typical “American” looks like. Hafsah is currently involved with several student service groups at the University of Washington, including the Muslim Student Association, Pillars of Service, and the Somali Student Association.
Jeremy Voss (Arabic) is double-majoring in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization and Computer Science. Having lived in Israel for a year prior to attending the University of Washington, he is interested in exploring the audible and syntactic differences between Hebrew and Arabic. His ultimate goal is to find ways to help bridge the gaps between various Middle Eastern communities with technology, provide computer science consultation for Israeli and Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations, and develop tools to better teach and translate Hebrew and Arabic. He plans to study Arabic this summer at the Noor Majan Arabic Institute in Muscat, Oman.
Collin M. Ballard (Arabic) is pursuing an M.A. in Middle East Studies. He plans to focus his research on how Palestinian Islamism shapes the identities of its constituents as a distinctly unique form of Islam. With the FLAS award, Collin will study Arabic to make more effective use of Arabic research materials during his M.A. studies. His eventual goal is to find a teaching position at a community college, high school, or non-profit program that allows him to introduce the concepts of Islam and the Middle East to Americans in a way that contributes to more informed and productive conversations about this region of the world.
Julia Chatterjee (Persian) is an M.A. Student in South Asian Studies. She has spent the past five years of her academic career studying the languages and cultures of the Middle East and South Asia, with an emphasis on identifying and analyzing the hybrid cultural forms that emerged in the frontier zones between modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India. As a FLAS fellow, Julia plans to cultivate her ability to communicate in the Indo-Iranian borderlands and also gain access to the medieval and ancient linguistic predecessors, whose textual material she hopes to study. In the future, Julia aspires to become a scholar and professor of Indo-Iranian linguistics, culture, and history.
Sarah Lawrence (Arabic) is pursuing an M.P.H. in Global Health and a Global Woman, Adolescent, and Child Health (WACh) certificate. She previously spent time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco working on youth development; this experience shaped her goals to continue learning Arabic and enhanced her intercultural communication skills. She plans 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 in the region. Ideally, Sarah would like to work as an in-country technical advisor at an agency working on program design or conducting research in the MENA region.
Academic Year 2017-18
Oliver Lang (Arabic) is majoring in International Studies and is interested in Islam in the Middle East and Europe. He would like to research the changing dynamics of Muslim fiqh authorities within the political and legal structure of their societies, post-Arab Spring, especially within context of the large diaspora of Muslim refugees in Europe. Oliver’s ultimate goal is to research the implications of developments in legal discourse for US foreign policy and to use this expertise working for the State Department and/or through graduate study. His FLAS fellowship will help him pursue an immersive study of Arabic to understand the ideas in the traditional Arabic canon as well as modern media.
Olga Laskin (Hebrew) is an International Studies and Economics major with minors in Political Science and Human Rights who is interested in pursuing diplomatic work in the Middle East, specifically in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict. She was born in Jerusalem after her family immigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union in 1991. Her experiences in Israel growing up motivated her to pursue these fields of study, because she believes they are critical in developing a beneficial two-state solution. Olga hopes to work in the Middle East either with a peace-promoting NGO or in a US embassy to understand more of the issues on the ground and work on tangible solutions.
Matthew Manner (Arabic) is majoring in Mathematics and is interested in a career in military intelligence and national security. He is an Air Force ROTC cadet and chose to study Arabic because of its challenging nature and relevance. After graduating from college, Matthew will take advantage of the resources offered in the military to continue to hone his Arabic skills, such as the Department of Defense’s Defense Language Institute. Matthew also wants to study abroad in the Middle East while at the University of Washington. Eventually, he would like to use his Arabic skills in real-world applications.
Vincent G. Calvetti (Arabic) is an Interdisciplinary Near and Middle Eastern Studies Ph.D. student whose research focuses on the interaction between the Israeli state and Mizrahi Jewish communities. His current project examines the renewed controversy in Israel over what has become known as the Yemenite Babies Affair, in which he is examining declassified files to think about models of accountability, reparations, and reconciliation in multicultural immigrant societies. His goal is to pursue an academic career working with think-tanks involved with civil society efforts. Vincent hopes that his research will benefit those working for justice and reconciliation on the ground in Israel and Palestine as well as around the world.
Melinda Cohoon (Arabic) is a recent graduate of the Middle East Studies program at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and is entering the Near and Middle Eastern Studies Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program this fall. Her dissertation research will use colloquial Arabic as a tool to study minority video gamers in the Persian Gulf and the political sphere of video games. She is also deeply interested in studying digital media and how it concerns metadata and contemporary issues in the Middle East. After she receives her Ph.D., Melinda would like to pursue a career as a professor in Interdisciplinary Studies.
Russell Guajardo (Turkish) is pursuing a Masters in Middle East Studies with a focus on Turkey at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, where he hopes to advance his understanding of Turkish politics and foreign policy. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Stanford University, Russell moved to Washington, D.C. to research US-Turkey relations with a large business-focused NGO. He later taught English in Turkey on a Fulbright Scholarship. After completing his Masters, Russell plans to pursue a career in the US Foreign Service and someday attain a university teaching and research position to inspire a new generation to work in public service and Turkish Studies.
Leah O’Bryant (Arabic) is pursuing a Masters of Social Work at the University of Washington, with a focus on using cross-cultural practices to work with immigrants and refugees from the Middle East, especially youth who have experienced trauma. Over the last four years, Leah has helped develop, expand, and run an organization called Awareness and Prevention Through Art (aptART). Her FLAS fellowship will give her the Arabic language skills necessary to develop closer relationships with the Arabic-speaking youth she works with. Ultimately, her goal is to create a therapeutic space for youth to use their voices to fight for a more just and secure world.
Heather Rodriguez (Arabic) is an M.A. student in Middle East Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. She is interested in studying the historiography, cultures, and languages of the Middle East to discover a richer explanation for modern day issues. Her long-term goal is to become a professor in Near Eastern, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the university level. Rodriguez’ ultimate goal is to encourage future students to “unpack” the conflicts in the Middle East by analyzing and questioning their sources.
Maral Sahebjame (Arabic) is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Interdisciplinary Program in Near and Middle Eastern Studies. Maral is interested in examining gender and law discourses in Muslim-majority socities. She hopes to improve her Arabic skills to access sources that will aid her ethnographic research in revealing narratives of gender and desire in the modern Middle East. Her career goal is to attain a position in a non-profit organization or an international agency in the U.S., where she can contribute to strengthening Americans’ understanding of the region.