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Scholarship Promotes Understanding of Middle East

Monday, November 28, 2011

Funds from the Donald C. Leidel International Business Scholarship allowed three University of Wisconsin-Madison students to attend the Middle East Institute’s annual conference, whose topic this year was Game Changer: Politics and Policy for a New Middle East.

Kellen Abraham, Jacob Schwoerer, and Sean Murphy attended the Middle East Institute’s 65th annual conference in Washington, D.C. from November 16th through the 17th.  All three students’ double majors include Middle East Studies; all three have also studied Arabic.

The Middle East Institute was founded in the immediate post-World War II era “to increase knowledge of the Middle East among the citizens of the United States and to promote a better understanding between the people of these two areas,” in the words of its founders. The region has since that time played a critical role in U.S. foreign policy and economic interests.

The scholarship was established by Wisconsin School of Business alumnus Peter Leidel to honor his father Don Leidel, a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate and the U.S. ambassador to Bahrain from 1983 to 1986, and is administered by the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER).

CIBER, located within the Wisconsin School of Business and funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education, works to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. business globally and enhance international business-related teaching and research. The Wisconsin CIBER was established in 1998 and is part of a distinguished national network of universities known for the strength of their international programs.

Abraham, Schwoerer, and Murphy also had the opportunity to meet Don Leidel, who serves on the Middle East Institute’s Board of Governors, and his sons Peter and Michael.

The conference program featured several current and retired ambassadors; a former member of the Israeli Knesset; a former Palestinian Authority minister; Egyptian activist Esra Abdel Fattah; and William Burns, the highest ranking member of the U.S. Foreign Service.

Sean Murphy came away from the conference with a clearer understanding of the economic repercussions that the recent uprisings in the Middle East have had on the economies of the affected countries, while  Jacob Schwoerer commented that a “very interesting and hopeful talk was given by Radwan Masmoudi , who talked about the potential success for democracy in Tunisia. Throughout his talk, I was transformed from pessimism to optimism regarding the prospects for democracy in the Middle East, but this can only be possible if other countries follow in Tunisia’s “revolutionary” footsteps.”

“I think that what the MEI is doing in D.C. is indispensable for the future of U.S. relations with the MENA [Middle East Northern Africa] area and that any student wishing to follow their interest to a rewarding future in international politics should survey the internships the Middle East Institute offers,” Abraham wrote in her post-conference report.