Wayne State University

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Lebanese American University students foster multiculturalism at WSU

December 16, 2013

Some of the brightest young minds in the Middle East and North Africa are spending a summer at Wayne State University as part of international collaboration to nurture the region’s future community, business, and national leaders.

For the past three years, WSU has hosted students from U.S.-accredited Lebanese American University (LAU) for two months of study comprised of service learning and conventional coursework. The students are part of the Tomorrow’s Leaders Scholarship Program, an initiative of the U.S. State Department’s U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative that provides four-year college degree scholarships to economically disadvantaged Middle Eastern and North African youth with strong leadership potential.  Students from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen are eligible for the program.

Each summer term (July and August), LAU students come to Wayne State for a three-credit service learning course centered on Detroit that is created specifically for them. The students have the option of taking an additional three-to-six credits in subjects that satisfy their graduation requirements at LAU

Kelli Dixon, director of Wayne State’s Study Abroad and Global Programs, said the program provides a reciprocal benefit for all students, spurring an important cultural exchange on the university’s campus.

“There is a wonderful reciprocity that occurs as Middle Eastern and American students interact in the classroom, in residential housing and on the campus,” Dixon said. “Students gain better insight into one another’s religions, political perspectives, worldviews and values, gaining a cultural competency that is critical for leaders in a globalized society.”

At a sendoff picnic for this summer’s LAU students in Stony Creek Metropark, Mohamed Gohary of Egypt noted that his perception of the United States had changed considerably as a result of his stay in Detroit and his course on American government and politics.

“I used to think that America was simply meddling in the Middle East, but now I see that the United States is looking after its interests,” he said.

Barik Mahadin of Jordan and Shuhd Alsharki of Yemen were both living in the United States for the second time, having spent their sophomore years of high school in Omaha, Neb., and Rapid City, S.D., respectively. Mahadin said he valued his WSU courses in European history and American government and politics, particularly their comparative approach to democratic political systems and explanation of U.S. electoral processes.  Alsharki, who envisions a career as a Yemeni diplomat, said he was charmed by the city of Detroit and pleased that it had defied expectations formed by negative portrayals in the media.

“As future leaders, our guests from Lebanese American University will help shape political and economic relations between the United States and the Middle East,” said Kelli Dixon. “As an urban university with a diverse study body and faculty, Wayne State is a great environment for these students to better experience and appreciate the richness of American society.”