2007 Summer Institute
What makes a good society? This is the question that eight Brandeis undergraduates and seven students from Al-Quds University explored jointly in late August during a special ten-day Summer Institute in Turkey. In addition to exploring "What is a good society?" through the works of Aristotle, Locke and Hobbes, the students also lived together, explored Istanbul, and engaged in long talks over coffee about their lives, careers and passions.
The Brandeis-Al-Quds Summer Institute was conceived as a first step towards genuine cross-cultural exchange at the undergraduate level. Rather than have the exchange benefit one particular university over another, the Institute's location in Turkey offered a setting rich with diverse cultures and one where the students could explore sites together. Students were chosen through a rigorous selection process in the spring of 2006, reflecting a wide range of academic interests and backgrounds.
In many ways, the benefits of the Summer Institute were felt far beyond the classroom seminars. For many of the students, this was the first time meeting, working, or rooming with an American or Palestinian undergraduate. Conversations ranged from politics to education to the current economic climate in Turkey. In many cases, these conversations asked the students from both universities to challenge assumptions or debate the meaning of historical events.
Here are a few excerpts from individual student reflections:
"Above all, I would say that I learned most from my casual conversations with the Palestinian students. Held over coffee or during late-night chats in our rooms, these informal conversations gave me a glimpse into the lives of my fellow participants and allowed me to better understand their stories and perspectives. The conversations I had with my roommate proved incredibly valuable and integral to my exchange experience...I have been asked by many people if I found the trip successful. I find the word "successful" to be quite troubling as there is no real way to quantify or even to define "success;" however, I have been able to say with confidence that I found the trip to be incredibly meaningful, educational, and enlightening." - Brandeis student
"Our trip to Istanbul has been the best one that I ever had. I met many new friends from different cultures and religions. It was interesting to talk about our life styles, to share rooms, to eat together and to study with each other for the seminars...I was scared at the beginning from not being able to live with the American students as they are from a different world from my side. But when I met them all my thoughts flipped 180 degrees and I was so happy in doing everything with them." - Al-Quds student
"In general the trip was really good - it gave us a good chance to get to know some students at the same of our age, living in the other side of the world. At the end I hope that this trip will be just a beginning." - Al-Quds student
Differences in Learning Styles
Lectures were team-taught by Brandeis and Al-Quds professors, and discussion was conducted seminar-style. For Al-Quds students, this open format represented a dramatic change from the style of teaching and learning in Palestinian and Arab education, and the English language was a challenge. For Brandeis students, it was also a unique experience adjusting to cross-cultural learning styles and together tackling texts which were somewhat abstract in nature. Communal meals were enriched by visiting faculty from universities and institutes in Istanbul and topics ranged from Sufism to economics to wearing the veil.
What They Read
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
On Liberty (John Stuart Mill)
The Lottery (Shirley Jackson)
Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle)
The Prince (Machiavelli)
U.S. Bill of Rights & Preamble
Second Treatise of Government (Locke)
On the Social Contract (Rousseau)
Letter from the Birmingham City Jail (King)
How it Feels to be Colored Me (Hurston)
Where They Traveled
The students had a packed schedule of meetings, seminars, excursions and communal time.
A typical day involved:
8:00 - 9:00 Breakfast
9:00 - 11:30 Istanbul excursion
12:00 - 1:00 Communal lunch
1:00 - 2:30 Independent time
3:00 - 5:30 Seminar
Evening Discussion & Dinner
Together, the students explored the multiple cultural influences of Istanbul, including excursions to the Ottoman, Byzantine and modern sections of the city. Students visited churches, mosques and the largest synagogue in Istanbul. They visited one of the Prince's Islands where a long-standing Jewish community thrived historically and currently and they had an architectural tour of unique Istanbul neighborhoods and markets.
An integral part of the Summer Institute was the ripple effect caused by the leadership of the students who participated in reaching out to the home campus. The Brandeis students have been sharing their experiences with student groups on campus, with Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz, with faculty involved in the partnership, and with the Brandeis community at large. The students also met with Al-Quds President Sari Nusseibeh during his visit to Brandeis in October, 2007.
Said Zeedani is the vice president of academic affairs at Al-Quds University. He is the faculty leader of the Undergraduate Summer Institute for Al-Quds and visited Brandeis in Spring 2007. He also participates in the Effective Teaching exchange with Elaine Wong and Susan S. Lanser. He hosted Brandeis University delegates to Al-Quds in December 2005.
Michaele Whelan is the vice provost of Brandeis University. She was the Brandeis faculty leader of the Undergraduate Summer Institute. She has hosted several Al-Quds delegations to Brandeis.
Alwina Bennett is assistant provost for graduate student affairs at Brandeis University. She was the Brandeis staff leader of the Summer Institute in Turkey.
Ziad Abu Awad is assistant to the dean for student affairs at Al-Quds University. He participates in the undergraduate student exchange and traveled to Turkey for the Summer Undergraduate Institute in August 2007.
Elaine Wong is the senior associate dean of arts and sciences at Brandeis. She has been an organizer of the Brandeis Summer Institute in Turkey and participates in the Effective Teaching exchange with Susan S. Lanser and Said Zeedani. She visited Al-Quds University in May 2006 to further the exchange and hosted delegates to Brandeis in October 2006 and in 2007.
Joe Farbeann '08 majors in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and history.
Jessica Kent '09 majors in psychology and women and gender studies.
Gabriela Lupatkin '09 majors in psychology.
Yael Mazor '08 majors in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies.
Garrett Nada '10 majors in Near Eastern and Judaic studies.
Daniel Pereira '08 majors in English and creative writing.
Jeremy Sherer '10 majors in politics.
Hilla Shimsoni '10 has not yet declared a major.
Khalil Muhammad Khalil Adwan is a student in the faculty of medicine.
Jumana Tawfiq Edkeidek is a student in the faculty of dentistry.
Ranin Ghazi Hadid
Tareq Isam Newara
Amal As'ad Abu Srur graduated from Al-Quds this summer.
Haitham Muhammad Sublaban
Munther Muhammad Zahaika