UC Berkeley's Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) will establish one of 10 new virtual exchange programs to increase cross-cultural understanding and equip young people for the global economy, thanks to a two-year grant from the Aspen Institute's Stevens Initiative, which honors the late UC Berkeley alumnus, U.S. diplomat and lawyer Chris Stevens.
CMES is among the first wave of Christopher Stevens Global Ambassadors programs funded by the initiative after a national competition designed to increase personal exchanges and understanding among youth in the United States, Middle East and North Africa.
The initiative is providing $5 million to support the new online programs, which aim to bring more than 20,000 young people together to engage in cross-cultural learning experiences in 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa and in 25 American states.
A wide reach
The new CMES program will provide an opportunity for Berkeley undergraduates to interact with peers at institutions in rural Morocco and Saudi Arabia, with subsequent exchanges planned in Iraq and Jordan.
"Our vision is to spark conversations between young people in countries around the world — to exchange ideas and information and to work together on addressing important issues. We look forward to working with UC Berkeley to achieve this vision," said Elliot Gerson, executive vice president of the Aspen Institute.
"Ambassador Stevens spent his undergraduate career studying history here at UC Berkeley before starting his service career in Morocco with the Peace Corps," said CMES Chair Emily Gottreich. "We are honored to have been entrusted with the important work of continuing his legacy through these exchanges."
CMES promotes the interdisciplinary study of the Arab world, Turkey, Israel and Iran at UC Berkeley and organizes an interdisciplinary lecture and film series each semester. It also supports advanced research on the Middle East by faculty, students and visiting scholars, and conducts Middle East-related outreach to schools and community partners in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Since Stevens' 2012 death following an attack in Libya, where he was serving as U.S. ambassador, CMES has administered the Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens Memorial Fund for Middle Eastern Studies to support UC Berkeley student travel and research in the Middle East and North Africa.
Housed at the Aspen Institute, the Stevens Institute is a collaboration between the Stevens family, the U.S. Department of State, the Bezos Family Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Algeria and Morocco, and Microsoft, Twitter, Mozilla and GoPro.