Kuwait and UAE Delegation Biographies

| Posted Dec 14, 2010
Program: New Initiative for Middle East Peace (NIMEP)

 Fact-Finding Mission to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates - January 2010 

Follow the Research Trip (January 3rd - 18th)!

During the upcoming winter break, the Tufts New Initiative for Middle East Peace (NIMEP) will undertake its annual fact-finding mission. In the past six years, the group has traveled to Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel/West Bank. This year the group has decided to travel to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.  This trip will be NIMEP’s first time conducting research in the Gulf Region.  

NIMEP is a student-run organization under the auspices of the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership. The entire group holds weekly dialogue sessions, which are open to the entire campus community including both students and professors, sponsors on-campus speakers, assembles off-campus excursions such as to the annual Boston Palestine Film Festival at Harvard University, undertakes the fact-finding mission, and publishes its findings and other student papers in its annual publication, Insights. 
On the research trip, each student will focus on a specific subject which they will have researched in-depth beforehand. The students will spend two weeks in Kuwait, Dubai and Abu Dubai where they will conduct interviews with business professionals, community activists, political leaders, academics, and others who can shed light on the recent developments in the region. Every student will compile their findings from these meetings, and their extensive pre- and post-trip research into formal articles and papers, which will be bound in the upcoming edition of Insights.  


Khaled Al-Sharikh

    Khaled Al-Sharikh is a junior at Tufts University double majoring in International Relations and Economics. He is co-leading this year’s trip to the Gulf and is currently the co-coordinator of NIMEP’s weekly dialogues and one of the principal editors of the NIMEP Insights journal. Khaled participated in NIMEP’s fact finding mission in Syria, and co-authored an article, “Moving Beyond the Golan Heights: The True Impediments to an Israeli-Syrian peace”, published in Fall 2008 edition of NIMEP Insights. Having grown up as a member of a Kuwaiti diplomat’s family, he lived in Japan (where he was born), Germany and Belgium. While he credits his diverse upbringing for providing him with a sense of international citizenship and a globally oriented view of the world, Khaled firmly classifies himself as a Kuwaiti and is set on returning to his country upon graduation. Khaled is fluent in Arabic, English and French. His main interests are the prospects of democracy in Iraq, the dynamics of regional hegemony in the Middle East and the impediments to peace between Israel, on one hand, and Palestinians and Israel’s neighbors on the other.


Jonathan Gale

     Jonathan is a junior majoring in geology and religion.  Born and raised in the Boston area, he has a history of following politics, with specific with specific focus on international politics.  His main area of interest is the Middle East and has actively participated in NIMEP for over a year.  His other interests include law, history, and geography, including GIS.

Since the 1970s, the smaller Arab countries in the Gulf region have had friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, but the status quo is rapidly changing due to changes in Iran and Iraq.  In light of recent GCC disagreements and border disputes, Jonathan wants to investigate the relations of these smaller Gulf States to Saudi Arabia in this changing climate.  This will be based on identifying Saudi power plays in the region and Gulf State attempts to resist the control of the Saudis.  Additionally, he plans on obtaining the countries’ official views of the future of the region to better understand their actions and aspirations.

Stephanos Karavas

     Stephanos Karavas is a freshman majoring in International Relations who will hopefully be concentrating in the comparative politics and current affairs of Southeastern Europe or the Eastern Mediterranean. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and loves to play the Oud, soccer, and travel. Stephanos is currently learning Italian and speaks Modern Greek and Spanish in addition to English. He has spent two summers interning at the State House for his representative, William Galvin, and has also spent a summer interning at the Greek Consulate General in Boston. His interest in the Middle Eastern has arisen as a result of his love of Middle and Near Eastern history, his recognition of its great contribution to the West and the wider world, and its relationship to his Greek ancestry through the Ottoman Empire. Thus far, Stephanos has been invested in NIMEP throughout his first semester at Tufts.

The topic Stephanos will be researching in Kuwait and the UAE will entail a comparative analysis of the two nations’ history of social reform descending from the governmental level. Kuwait and the Emirates are very unique in that their domestic and foreign affairs are not heavily tied to the most prominent issues of the Middle East such as Arab/Israeli relations, Palestine and Iran’s WMD’s. The two nations’ domestic issues reflect relatively poor records of social reform in the areas of women’s rights and minority rights and Stephanos will seek to attain a better understanding of these issues and how they should be confronted and reformed in the near and distant future.


Patricia Letayf

     Patricia Letayf is a junior majoring in International Relations with a concentration in the Middle East and a minor in Economics.  Because both her parents were raised in the Middle East, she is interested in studying Lebanon and the impact this small country has on its border countries—Israel and Syria.  Her primary focus includes the role of non-state actors and the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Last year Patricia was a member of the Israel/West Bank fact-finding mission and researched the impediments to an Israeli-Lebanese peace.  In addition to participating in NIMEP, Patricia is a member of the Arab Students Association, the Vice President of the Catholic Community at Tufts and coordinator of BookMatch, an after-school reading program for fourth and fifth graders that runs in two Medford public schools.  

This winter Patricia plans to research Gulf security, specifically the United States’ interest in region and its relationships with Kuwait and the UAE. 


Chas Morrison

     Chas is junior from Weston, Connecticut, majoring in International Relations.  Chas has been heavily involved with the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) during his time at Tufts, through which he has attended conferences at West Point and the Naval Academy, as well as participated in several Army and Marine Corps field training exercises and simulations.  Through the IGL, Chas also participated in the 2008 Joint Research Project between Tufts, West Point, and the Naval Academy in Amman, Jordan, where he researched the impact of the Iraq War on Jordan’s bilateral relationship with the Iraqi government.  Last semester, Chas peer-taught an accredited Experimental College course at Tufts on counterinsurgency warfare.  The course culminated in an extensive counterinsurgency paintball field exercise featuring over forty civilian participants and role-players in which students assumed the roles of counterinsurgents, civilians, insurgents, and tribal leaders in a mock war-torn village.  Chas is also the co-founder of the Tufts Roundtable, a media platform designed to promote debate over campus, national, and global issues.  He is a member of Tufts Republicans and currently serves as President of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity.  In the past, Chas has held summer internships in the United States House of Representatives in the Office of Congressman Christopher Shays and in the Pentagon in the Office of the Director of Acquisition Resources and Analysis. 
Chas plans to research the Arab reaction to the Iranian nuclear program during his time in Kuwait and the UAE.  His research will focus on the behavior of the Gulf States if and when Iran develops nuclear weapons and will explore the potential security consequences for the region if negotiations prove unsuccessful in convincing Iran to abandon its nuclear program.

Margaret O'Connor

     Margaret O’Connor is a senior at Tufts University where she majors in political science and community health.  After graduation she plans to continue to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health at Tufts Medical School.  Having studied the comparative politics of the Middle East and Arabic since her freshman year, Margaret joined NIMEP in 2008 after returning from a summer researching the impact of the Iraq War on political reforms in Jordan.  In addition to NIMEP, Margaret is the co-chair of ALLIES (Alliance Linking Leaders in Education and the Services) and is a member of Synaptic Scholars, two other programs of the Institute for Global Leadership.  She also works as a writing tutor, and is the recipient of Tufts’ Neubauer Scholarship.   

Her research in Kuwait and the UAE focuses on medical education and ethics in the Gulf, as well as medical diplomacy and outreach to other parts of the region. Kuwait and the UAE boast health systems and profiles comparable to average European standards.  Although both countries make substantial efforts to support the health systems of their Arab neighbors, they face challenges of their own, particularly a reliance on non-national healthcare providers.  In light of this, both countries have prioritized improving medical education through increased opportunities, standardization, and new accreditations.  Margaret’s research will examine the existing condition of medical education in the Gulf, as well as the initial and potential impacts of these reforms. 


Seth Rau

     Seth Rau is a sophomore from Cincinnati, Ohio double majoring in Political Science and International Relations with a focus on International Development Economics.  On campus, Seth is the Political Vice President of Tufts Friends of Israel where he tries to accommodate all points of view on the situation.  In addition, he is on the Executive Board of the Tufts Democrats as speakers co-coordinator and head of Jumbos for Martha Coakley (where he is also currently interning on her Senate campaign).  Last spring, Seth was the co-founder of the Middle East Planning Group, an alliance that brought together Israeli and Arab students in the immediate days after the war in Gaza last January.  Besides this work, he is a member of the Hillel representative board and Jumbocast.  Among other things this past summer, Seth worked on a campaign to promote solar energy use in New Jersey.
 On the trip, Seth plans to research what Kuwait and the UAE will do on the day that oil runs out in order to continue economic growth in the Gulf.  Seth will also be examining the growth of potential new energy industries such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy and how these nations could potentially maintain their energy hegemony beyond the realm of oil.   


Spencer Russ 

      Spencer Russ has been interested in international affairs for nearly all of his adult life. After growing up in Milan, Italy, Spencer attended the Awty International School in Houston, Texas.  At Tufts University he has maintained his involvement in international affairs through his position on the executive board of the International Club, becoming president his second year. In this capacity, he organized events for fund raising and invited distinguished guest speakers. During the winter break of 2007-2008, Spencer worked as an intern in the press department of the French consulate of Houston. His chief duties were to read and analyze news reports of current events in the region pertaining to the French Republic, and prepare briefings for the consul. Spencer spent his third year of university at the Instituit des Etudes Politiques – Paris (Sciences-Po Paris) where he studied chiefly political science. He received special recognition by receiving the mentions francophones and mentions sciences politiques on his diploma. He represented Sciences Po in international debate groups in the Hague, Sofia, and Moscow.  In his last year of university, Spencer is involved with NIMEP (the New Initiative for Middle East Peace) and other on-campus student groups. He plans to teach English in Moscow for a year following graduation, then join the U.S. Navy as an officer.

On the NIMEP research trip to the Gulf, Spencer will be studying the various government policies concerning economic diversification away from petroleum and their results across states.