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Graduate Students

Katherine Downs is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Middle East and North African studies and a separate degree in social work. Her research interests include the societal and individual trauma inflicted by colonialist policies, attitudes, and doctrines in the Middle East, particularly the trauma and resilience of Palestinian women. Before coming to the University of Michigan, Katherine volunteered as a facilitator of psychosocial support activities for adolescents in Amman, Jordan, and worked as an editor at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. She received her undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern studies from the College of William and Mary.

Nicholas Kolenda is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Middle East and North African studies. He graduated from the University of Michigan (2018) with a dual major in political science and Near Eastern studies, and received the George G. Cameron Award. His research experience was in the field of critical discourse analysis, researching the discursive and rhetorical changes in the New York Times' coverage of Muslims and Islam following 9/11. Nicholas has several fields of interest ranging from political theory, discourse studies, religious studies, and modern Levantine history. In a combination of all of these fields, he hopes to research Ba'athism in both Syria and Iraq as a convergence of various ideologies found in the Levant in the mid to late twentieth century.

Danielle Lightfoot is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Middle East and North African studies. His research interests lie in the history of international law and humanitarian law—focusing on the law of military occupation, the U.S. role in carrying out and supporting humanitarian violations (particularly in the Middle East), and the role of social movements in international criminal justice. He is also an anti-war activist, most recently campaigning with NYC DSA to end U.S. funding for Israeli military detention of Palestinian children. His research languages are Arabic, English, French, and Latin.

Mekarem Eljamal earned her B.A. in both International Studies and Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Michigan in 2016. Following graduation, she spent time in Haifa, where she worked at a research institution focused on Palestinian citizens of Israel. Since returning to the United States, she has worked with the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies as a program assistant. Currently, she works with the Arab Studies Institute as the editor of both Al-Diwan, the blog arm of Tadween Publishing, and the Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative. Her research interests center upon Palestinian citizens of Israel, specifically the processes and role of placemaking on notions of identity, citizenship, belonging, and non-belonging.

Samiah Haque is a graduate of the Helen Zell Writers' Program in Poetry in 2015 at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include the intersections of Islamic cosmology with pilgrimage studies, psychoanalysis, and architectural theory. She works at the U-M Medical School to implement a revision of the curriculum, and is at work on her first novel.

Meghan Hough is in both the Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and Arabic Studies masters programs. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 2018 with a B.A. in International Studies and Near East Studies, and a minor in Judaic Studies. Her research interests include theoretical linguistics, pre-modern Islam, and postcolonialism in the Middle East and Africa. As an undergraduate, she was the social media and communications intern for the Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum—a unique initiative providing students at Big Ten universities a robust curriculum specializing in Islamic Studies.

Ahmed Mitiche graduated in 2016 from the University of Indianapolis with a bachelor of arts in Sociology and Philosophy. As an undergraduate, he was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program research grant which enabled him to travel to Morocco and conduct field work with activists from two contemporary social movements: the 20th February Movement and Hirak al-Rif. Ahmed is also an activist and community organizer, and a founder of an Indiana non-profit, FOCUS Initiatives, that is working to develop transitional housing and re-entry programming for formerly incarcerated persons in the state. Additionally, he is organizing against Countering Violent Extremism funding in Indianapolis as part of the American Friends Service Committee's Communities Against Islamophobia project.

Ali Al Momar graduated from the University of Michigan in 2017 with a B.A. in Public Policy. His primary area of interest is comparative politics in the Middle East and North Africa, especially in relation to electoral dynamics, democratic transitions, and identity politics. Ali previously worked at Freedom House, a Washington, D.C.–based democracy watchdog, where he assisted in managing a multi-million-dollar portfolio of human rights and democracy programs focusing on issues ranging from gender equality to justice-sector reform. He also contributed to Freedom House’s advocacy efforts, and his research was utilized in analyses and various press releases published on the organization’s website.

Asma Noray graduated from Swarthmore College in 2017 with a B.A. in both Political Science and Arabic. She is originally from Nairobi, Kenya, and grew up in Seattle, Washington. Asma has studied Arabic in Morocco, Oman, Iraq, and Jordan, and has worked extensively with refugee populations from these regions. Her research interests involve understanding refugee and migration crises in the Middle East through the lens of fiction and personal narratives. Over the past year, she has served as an AmeriCorps member at World Relief Seattle, where she worked to expand services for refugee youth in the area. In addition, Asma is also passionate about advocacy and civic engagement in the Muslim American community.

Seif Saqallah graduated from U-M with undergraduate majors in AAPTIS, Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Judaic Studies, and International Studies, as well as a minor in Religion and Law, Justice, and Social Change. Seif was born in Jordan and immigrated to the United States at two years old. Two of his favorite campus organizations are the Muslim Students’ Association and MuJew (Muslims and Jews), an interfaith intercultural group which strives to create a bridge of empathy and understanding between two communities that are commonly misunderstood. Seif is pursuing the dual JD/MA program with the U-M Law School and CMENAS where he hopes to study law and continue his interests in Arabic and Hebrew. Combining Arabic and Hebrew: Shalom 'alaykhem, wa rahmat Allahi wa barakatuh. Peace be with you, and the mercy and blessings of God.

Leah Squires is pursuing a dual master’s degree in Middle Eastern and North African Studies and Public Policy. Her years of nonprofit experience with youth, immigrants and refugees, and linguists, as well as her Peace Corps service in Morocco, inspire her graduate coursework. A researcher writer, her curiosity lends itself to disparate topics, linked by threads of social policy and justice, geography, and intercultural communication. Leah recently completed an internship with Direct Relief where she used data-driven storytelling to investigate the intersection between environmental hazards and humanitarian aid in the Rohingya refugee crisis. She will return to Morocco in 2019 and looks forward to upcoming intellectual explorations of the Maghrib. She is proficient in Moroccan Arabic and is studying Modern Standard Arabic and French to better inform her studies.

Justin Stucki graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a BA in International Studies and Arabic Studies. Combined, he has spent several years studying the Arabic language and the socio-political and religious history of the Middle East and North Africa. His current research interests are broadly in the dialectology of Arabic, and in examining how different cultural, linguistic, religious, and political identities in the Middle East interact.