The Middle East and North Africa Regional Fellowship Program, originally operating under the name Princeton in the Middle East, has sent its first fellow abroad since disputes arose with the University about its name.
The program sent Rachel Webb '14 to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates in August to intern for Endeavor, a nonprofit organization that helps new entrepreneurs launch their careers around the world.
MENAR, founded by a steering committee of four University alumni in 2011, is a fellowship program modeled after similar programs such as Princeton in Africa and Princeton in Asia. The program was contacted last spring by University officials to change its name because it is not affiliated with the University.
The fellowship program had at the time already sent its first fellow to Rabat, Morocco, under the administrative oversight of Princeton in Africa.
Stanley Katz, a Wilson School professor and a member of MENAR's advisory board, said the University's approach came as a surprise.
"Now, the surprise for us is that the University had come to feel attaching a University name to a private program is unacceptable," Katz said. "It hadn't occurred to us that a program that was in other ways like Princeton in Africa, say, couldn't call itself Princeton in another part of the world."
Colleen McCullough '12, one of the founding members and the program's spokesperson, said she understood the University's stance on the issue.
"They are worried about protecting that brand," she said. "From our end, of course, it would be useful to us to be able to identify with that — not the Princeton University brand but with the other Princeton brand as an international program."
Webb, a Wilson School graduate with a certificate in Near Eastern Studies, said she learned about the opportunity first through Princeton in Africa and later through an interest email from the Near Eastern Studies department.
"As soon as I saw Princeton in the Middle East, I knew that it was something I would be interested in," Webb said.
Katz said he speculates that the dispute is a result of the University's uncertainty toward its international programs.
"I think one of the problems here is that the University hasn't been able to decide what it's going to be when it grows up as a player in international programs, and I think probably that [MENAR] is a roadkill for that process, a very minor kind of problem for the University," he said.
MENAR is currently talking to attorneys to register itself as an independent nonprofit.
"We can do everything we want to do with [MENAR] as well," McCullough said. "For example, we are going to be recruiting non-Princeton applicants, and we now don't have to go through the explanation that we aren't just oriented toward Princeton University."
Webb said she feels well-supported by MENAR, and the founding alumni were very responsive to her questions.
"I think that regardless of the name it is an amazing program, and it's exactly what we need to be having in the Middle East right now in terms of, you know, allowing Princeton students to gain that exposure," she said.