Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q) launched its first annual undergraduate conference on Middle Eastern Studies this weekend. The three-day event, which ran from 25th - 27th of May, was organized by the SFS-Q Middle Eastern Studies Students Association (MESSA) and united over twenty student conference presenters from some of the most prestigious universities around the globe.
The multinational conference was divided into three subject areas, Law & Politics, Social Change, and Culture & Anthropology. Participants presented their papers to colleagues and subject matter experts, peppering their findings with specific examples from within the region. Following each presentation, papers were analyzed by both discussants and presenters, generating thoughtful and relevant insights.
The event additionally marked the launch of Georgetown University SFS-Q's first Undergraduate Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, whereby a selection of essays and findings from the conference will be published.
Gerd Nonneman, Dean of SFS-Q, commented, "I am very proud of our students for organizing the first-of-its-kind Middle East Studies conference to showcase and debate top-quality undergraduate student research, and hosting their colleagues from renowned universities from around the world including Harvard, Princeton, Brown, and Columbia. It proves once again that the kind of education Georgetown SFS-Q provides to our students prepares them to conduct high level research and perform at a level of industry professionals. The Middle East Studies Students Association conference and the publication and e-journal that will follow will be a first for Qatar and the region. I am honored to be able to support this inspired initiative."
The student -led initiative allowed like-minded individuals to meet and discuss topics pertaining to the Middle East, a sentiment that was reiterated by a number of presenters, including Salma Mousa. The Georgetown University SFS-Q graduate said, "A year ago this was just an embryo of an idea and now we have people from amazing universities all around the world, who we wouldn't have connected with otherwise, coming here to discuss Middle Eastern topics. People who have written fantastic papers and that are really passionate about research in this region."
"I think the fact that the conference exists right now is really special. I think this event is absolutely amazing," she added.
Mousa presented her paper on the Social Change panel, which covered the topic of why Christians protested in the Egyptian uprisings but not in the recent Syrian uprisings. An extremely relevant but delicate issue, the graduate presented her findings in a succinct and methodical manner.
Aakash Jayaprakesh, another Georgetown University SFS-Q graduate, focused on Qatar and the labor laws within the country. The graduate presented his paper, "Qatar Imperial Attributes in its Labor Relationships?" which included subtopics like the sponsorship system, "Kafala," and the labor union. Within the Q&A section, the audience sought further information about the Gulf-imposed sponsorship system and the history of protesting within the country.
Safiullah Taye discussed his Law & Politics paper entitled, "Federalism in Lebanon and Afghanistan," which was preceded by a discussion of the Anfal Campaign led by a fellow panelist. The wide range of topics discussed highlighted the level of creativity within the submitted pieces of research.
Reagan Thompson, a visiting presenter from Stanford University studying International Relations and Chinese, praised the event stating, "I think the conference has been very enlightening. I've really enjoyed getting to know the other students. The quality of the research has been fantastic. I have participated in other student conferences in China and elsewhere and I think this is very high-caliber."
The seminars attracted a number of other students from within Qatar; Alya Al Harthy, a Texas A&M student, said, "I think it's an interesting initiative, especially as it's the first undergraduate conference of its kind. It has the potential to reach out to the other universities here at Education City."