Author: Web Admin

Tristan Moreau

Forwarding Startup Research with Data that Makes a Difference

Through connecting with the University of Connecticut’s Abrahamic Initiative this previous summer, and the Boucher Management and Entrepreneurship Department, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to study abroad and conduct qualitative research in the Levant region. Aligning to a tee with the initiatives the institute attempts to accomplish, like furthering academic initiatives in the Middle East and supporting peaceful coexistence amongst the MENA region, our efforts in influencing sociological and economic trends and activity across Palestine and Jordan were carried across via the scholarship provided by this prestigious department. After receiving said funds, along with other members of Daigle Labs in Levant, we had the privilege of working directly with small to medium sized enterprises from Ramallah to Amman, and even as far as the Badiya, to educate founders and owners alike of navigation, academic coaching, and embarking on further missions utilizing market and no market strategy to develop and incentivize change. Collaborating with Eco Peace Palestine, Zaid Al-Attar, Shlash Oun, Dr. Ryan Coles, Marvin Maldonado, Peter Goggins and more forwarded our lab’s primary goal: forwarding startup research with data that makes a difference. 

Ranging from experimentation in Ghana, South America, and other areas in Eurasia, our work in the MENA region has superseded previous studies in scope, impact, and potential. Working tightly with businesses, following six to eight week academic/business coaching plans, conducting intimate interviews, and spreading the word of success and avenues for it throughout the area created a community of like-mindedness and cultivated change and increased business development. Clients ranged from agribusinesses to retail, all with the hopes of taking the next steps necessary to solidify their spots in markets and enhance their small/medium sized businesses. The same drive was discovered in each owner to connect, act wisely, and seek knowledge, similar to that of what our Abrahamic Institute drives to achieve daily through similar initiatives. Most specifically, our groundbreaking project in Jordan took this concept and ran with it. In works with Shlash Oun and colleagues in the most arid and least fertile regions of Jordan, a blossoming form of agriculture has taken form for generations and continually grown through word of mouth and advancement of business tactics and innovating technology. 

Through the partnership and accompanying research on the demographic/land changes in the region, we’ve been fortunate enough to assist in developing Muezzin: a mission bridging education and agricultural structure in Mafraq. The collision of research, business, and education has flighted plans for the establishment of a university in the region dedicated to the same concepts, bringing Jordanian students and refugees alike together to consolidate all group’s missions and increase ventures, economic sustainability, and overall interest in businesses across the nation. Booming agricultural tactics and knowledge through who and what is known is just a fraction of the impact made in MENA through multiple projects and 2 separate research missions over the course of the two weeks in our May 2023 visit. This transformative educational experience wouldn’t have been possible without the guiding hand of UConn’s Abrahamic Institute, who strives every day to illustrate change and illuminate the innovation and beauty of processes everywhere with similar goals.

Submitted September, 2023

Walker Dornisch

How Government Initiatives Foster Inclusivity for Neurodivergent Individuals in the Private Sector

Thanks to a generous travel award from UConn Global Affairs and the Abrahamic Programs for Academic Collaboration in the Middle East/North Africa Region, I was able to spend one week in the Middle East researching neurodiversity for my dissertation. I conducted fieldwork to better understand how government initiatives foster inclusivity for neurodivergent individuals in the private sector. Much like the UConn Abrahamic Programs, my work involved exchanging views and learning from a diverse group of stakeholders including neurodivergent employees, managers of neurodivergent employees, and coworkers of neurodivergent employees.

I was particularly fascinated by how the Middle East perceives and treats neurodivergent people. In some parts of the world, neurodivergent people exist largely in the background. Although there may be sympathy for neurodivergent people, there is a severe lack of intentional programs to bring them to the forefront and involve them in daily life. However, in the Middle East, it was common to see sensory guides in public places that inform people about the intensity of touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell. Often, I would see large signs that said, “Autism Friendly”. Likewise, many community resources such as public transportation and museums offered discounted or free tickets for neurodivergent people. Ramps and elevators were abundant for people with mobility impairments. It was inspiring to witness neurodivergent people being actively integrated into society.

When it comes to neurodiversity, the Middle East seems to follow the idea of “nothing about us, without us”. My observation is that neurodivergent people are valued and able to contribute in meaningful ways. All too often, well-meaning neurotypical academics and practitioners impose their ideas about what’s best for neurodivergent people. Consequently, the lived experiences, perspectives, and voices of neurodivergent people are ignored. Thankfully, this was not my experience in the Middle East where neurodivergent people are key contributors. I am better equipped to write my dissertation as a result of my fieldwork and I look forward to returning to the Middle East one day.

Faith Cesaria

Summer in Tel Aviv

A major goal of mine when first coming to UConn was to someday study abroad. I had no particular country in mind, but I knew that I enjoyed traveling and wanted to experience another culture in depth. When I learned about the Summer in Tel Aviv program that would not only give me a chance to take a UConn class for my major, Learning & Memory: From Brain to Behavior, but also a class at Tel Aviv University (TAU), I jumped at the opportunity to study with people from all around the world in a place that I knew very little about, besides what we hear in the news.

When arriving in Tel Aviv, I had a small sense of what the next four weeks of my life would look like—a jam-packed schedule that encapsulated the “work hard, play hard” mentality. Apart from the challenging academic aspect, however, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and how to navigate the city itself. Luckily, the course I chose to take through TAU, City Lab: Experiencing Tel Aviv, consisted of walking tours in historically significant areas to better understand our surroundings and experience what the locals do. As we traversed the city and participated in class discussions, I learned more about my peers and what inspired them to come to Israel. Everyone had such fascinating and diverse stories, which prompted me to reflect on my own life experiences and motivations for visiting, which included both academic and religious reasons.

In addition to the City Lab course, the university arranged a number of events and excursions that allowed my peers and I to take full advantage of our time outside of the classroom. The most impactful side trip I went on with the group was to the Old City of Jerusalem. As a Catholic, I was aware of the meaning behind the city for Christians, though I never imagined that I myself would one day visit. I knew of its importance for both Judaism and Islam as well, but was unsure of how all three of these religions could possibly share the same space and coexist in harmony. While the city is broken into quarters, a lot of times I could not distinguish the boundaries between them until I looked closer at the vendors and saw the various religious items they had on display. There were also tourists of every faith and nationality walking through each quarter and appreciating all of the holy sites. This contributed to the sense of unity and cohesiveness that I personally felt throughout the city despite its set divides. Some may say that the differences between its inhabitants can be seen as the city's greatest source of strength. I certainly felt that way, and it was interesting to compare and contrast Jerusalem with the other cities I explored, including Tel Aviv.

My time in Israel was a whirlwind of sights and sounds, a blur of cities old and new with adventures around every corner. One of the best parts of studying abroad is that even when you are not reading a textbook or being taught in a classroom lecture, you are still constantly learning and becoming more knowledgeable about the world around you. Sure, the same can be true in everyday life, but being abroad really pushes you to absorb as much as you can about a place and its people in the limited amount of time you have there. It also promotes curiosity and community among people of different beliefs and backgrounds. Overall, the trip really solidified my love of traveling, and I truly value my time spent with those I met along the way.

Esam Boraey

Empowering Resilience: My Summer Research Journey in Jordan with Syrian Refugee Entrepreneurs

As a recipient of the Middle East Studies Summer Research Grant, I embarked on a transformative journey to Jordan during the summer of 2023. My mission was clear: to work closely with Syrian refugee entrepreneurs and delve into the intricate world of their formal and informal entrepreneurial activities. This experience not only broadened my academic horizons but also allowed me to witness the incredible resilience of individuals striving for a better future in the face of adversity.

My research journey took me to various communities in Jordan where Syrian refugees have found refuge. What struck me immediately was the determination and resilience of these individuals who, despite the challenges posed by displacement, were actively engaged in entrepreneurship. It was a testament to the indomitable human spirit.

One of the aspects I explored during my research was the distinction between formal and informal entrepreneurship. Syrian refugees in Jordan engage in a wide range of entrepreneurial activities, from small market stalls to tech startups. What fascinated me was how many of these ventures operated informally, outside the traditional business structures. This informal sector not only showcased the adaptability of Syrian entrepreneurs but also highlighted the need for policies that support and formalize these enterprises.

My time in Jordan was not solely dedicated to interviews and data collection. I had the privilege of immersing myself in the daily lives of the Syrian refugee entrepreneurs and their communities. These experiences were invaluable, as they allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the social and cultural contexts in which these businesses operate.

My research journey also allowed me to reflect on how my work ties into UConn's Abrahamic program and its broader goals. My is essential to recognize the nuanced connections. The Abrahamic program emphasizes unity, understanding, and support for marginalized communities, and my research echoed these principles. By shedding light on the entrepreneurial endeavors of Syrian refugees, I contributed to the program's mission of fostering empathy, solidarity, and collaboration across diverse backgrounds.

My summer in Jordan was a profound experience that has left an indelible mark on my academic and personal journey. It reinforced my belief in the power of entrepreneurship as a tool for empowerment and resilience. I am immensely grateful to Middle East Studies, the Office of Global Affairs, and UConn's Abrahamic Program for their support and encouragement.

In the coming months, I look forward to sharing more insights and findings from my research. I also hope to continue exploring ways in which my work can contribute to the broader conversation on refugee entrepreneurship, policy development, and the enduring spirit of those who refuse to be defined by their circumstances.

My research journey in Jordan was a humbling experience that underscored the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. It reinforced the idea that, irrespective of our backgrounds, we all have the potential to create positive change in the world. I am excited to continue this journey, armed with the knowledge and experiences gained during my time in Jordan, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity provided by the Middle East Studies Summer Research Grant. 

Submitted September, 2023

Request for Applications: Summer Research in Middle East North Africa Region

Middle East Studies and the Office of Global Affairs invite current UConn undergraduate and graduate students to apply for 2023 summer research money for travel to the Middle East and North Africa region. Undergraduate applicants must plan to be part of an accredited academic program (see Experiential Global Learning). Graduate students may conduct research as part of an MA thesis or PhD dissertation, enroll in a language program, or develop a necessary research skill. Applications that are consistent with a goal (or goals) of UConn’s Abrahamic Programs will receive preference. See for more details.

Students may be awarded up to $3000. The application deadline is Friday, February 24, 2023, at 11:59 pm. Awardees will be notified by March 24, 2023. The money must be used and reimbursement requests submitted by August 31, 2023. Relevant US State Department travel restrictions and covid restrictions apply.

Applicants should email a resume (or CV), budget, and unofficial transcript to Prof. Jeremy Pressman, the Director of Middle East Studies. Applicants must also fill out the application at:

The Limits of Force in Israel‐​Palestine

The Israeli‐​Palestinian conflict has erupted again, but the politics in both Israel and the United States on this longstanding issue appear to be undergoing change. Jeremy Pressman, a political scientist at the University of Connecticut and an expert on the conflict, explains the historical context of the recent outbreak in violence, argues the cycle of military force undermines the objectives of both sides, and discusses the current tensions in the U.S.-Israeli relationship in this episode of the CATO Institute's Power Problems Podcast.

Spring 2021 Al Noor Call for Submissions

Al Noor, Boston College's Middle Eastern Studies Journal, is currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2021 issue through Monday, March 22, 2021. We are interested in considering your students' research papers, senior theses, perspectives pieces, editorials, and photo essays, if you could forward this email to your circles.

Al Noor is the only undergraduate-run publication represented each year at the MESA (Middle Eastern Studies Association) conference and is archived in the Library of Congress. Our mission is to shine a non-partisan and unbiased light on the myriad cultures, histories, and perspectives that comprise the Middle East. Previous issues have been distributed across the US and Europe, as well as in Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Kuwait, Lebanon, Yemen, Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Israel, and Palestine. Possible topics for submission are any subject pertaining to the Middle East, including but not limited to history, religion, culture, art, and politics.

Submissions should be sent to Each paper should be submitted in Microsoft Word format. Academic papers should be approximately 8,000 words in length. Papers should be formatted with endnotes and a complete bibliography.

Students can also submit a photo essay of at least 10 images from their travel and/or research in the Middle East.

Past issues can be viewed at

Thank you very much,

Al Noor Staff