Program Spotlight

The Stevens Program for Middle Eastern Studies

As early as his undergraduate days at UC Berkeley, Ambassador John Christopher Stevens demonstrated a great passion for global learning. He received his bachelor’s degree in history in 1982 before going on to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service, spent almost entirely in the Middle East and North Africa until his tragic death in 2012. On September 11, 2013, one year after Stevens’s death, his family established an endowed fund at his alma mater “to honor Chris’s life and career in working to create understanding and cooperation between the people in the United States and those of the Middle East and North Africa.” The Stevens Program for Middle Eastern Studies enables a new generation of dedicated scholars to expand and deepen their knowledge of the Middle East and North Africa, and to continue Stevens’s work.

The program’s impact is twofold, as it comprises two separate initiatives. The Stevens Scholar Project funds travel for passionate students to gain knowledge and make an impact in the Middle East and North Africa. Since 2015, it has enabled 11 students to travel to eight different countries in the region. From studying the limited water resources in Jordan to exploring the connections between Islam, feminism, and family law, Stevens scholars have gained invaluable experience that is furthering Ambassador Stevens’s legacy. “I had the privilege of traveling to Amman, Jordan…where I met with many Jordanian citizens struggling with the little water they had, and top government officials who were working hard to allocate what was available,” says Stevens Scholar Sawsan Morrar ’18. Now in her second year at the Graduate School of Journalism, Morrar is writing about the experience, with plans for wide publication. “I believe Jordan’s water crisis paints a larger story about the Middle East and how we address the tension in the region.”

The other component of the program, the Stevens Global Ambassadors Project, offers students the opportunity to participate in a virtual exchange. Since it began in 2016, it has provided more than 200 UC Berkeley students opportunities to engage with nearly 230 students across the Middle East and North Africa. “I don’t know when in my life I would have been able to experience talking twice a week with students from Morocco about contemporary issues in Islam and gender in Islam,” says Stevens Global Ambassador Alexandra Jacobson ’17. “Hearing their perspectives gave me a glimpse into the culture and perspectives many have in Morocco.”

At a time when Cal’s international education faces ever-diminishing funding from its traditional mainstays, the Department of Education and State of California, private support for student international travel and research is critical. A donation to the Stevens Program ensures that future generations of global leaders can further their knowledge and engagement with the Middle East and North Africa, and later make an impact on the world. Learn more about the program’s impact by visiting the Stevens Program website, and consider making a contribution to the program.