New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A. - The challenges of democracy, public interest law, world trade, and intercultural misperceptions are among the topics dominating the first ever cohort of Fellows from the Gabr Fellowship for U.S. and Egyptian Emerging Leaders, who visited Yale on Monday, October 21.
The Gabr Fellowship is an initiative of the Shafik Gabr Foundation designed to promote intercultural dialogue and collaboration between Egyptians and Americans. The Fellowship was designed with the belief that in an increasingly interconnected world, cross-cultural understanding and professional networks are essential for peace and progress. This first cohort of Fellows consists of 10 Egyptians and 12 Americans, chosen from a pool of emerging leaders in the fields of art, science, media, law, and both social and business entrepreneurship. All are between 24 and 35 years old.
The main pillars of the Fellowship are extensive travel in both Egypt and the United States, a series of seminars and discussions, and collaborative impact projects designed to leverage the Fellows’ experiences to their peers and communities.
Becca Doten, one of the American Gabr Fellows and Director of Crisis Response Team at the office of Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, said that she thinks the main value of the Fellowship lies in “creating one-on-one connections between our countries in a face-to-face way, taking it out of the academic and theoretical realms and putting it into the context of real conversations.” Learning about the recent turmoil in Egypt from the Egyptian Fellows themselves, she said, was particularly powerful.
The Fellowship began in Egypt in summer 2013 with visits to Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor, where the group met renowned public figures to explore challenges faced by their societies and the global community today. In October, the Gabr Fellows reconvened in the United States, beginning with site visits in New York City and then heading to New Haven. At Yale, the Fellows met with Yale President Peter Salovey and Vice President for Global and Strategic Initiatives, Linda Lorimer, as well as several other notable Yale faculty. They also visited the Echoes of Egypt exhibition at the Yale Peabody Museum and participated in a series of lectures and workshops hosted by Yale’s Office of International Affairs.
The Fellowship activities revealed many commonalities between the two national groups. One Egyptian Fellow, a freelance architect named Ahmed Elhabibi, reflected on the sentiments of the participants, saying that people should not judge others by their governmental administrations; how a government behaves is not necessarily representative of what the people of that country really think. Elhabibi said that he hopes “the fellowship will encourage others to open up to each other and see [the commonalities] that we have seen.”
As another Egyptian Fellow, Amr Ismaeil, Egypt Program Associate at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights and Studies put it, “we crossed the Atlantic Ocean just to see the reflections of ourselves.”
The Fellowship is sponsored by the Shafik Gabr Foundation and organized by the Arab American Institute. More information about the Fellowship and the Fellows can be found here: http://eastwestdialogue.org/gabrfellowship.
-By Leslie Bull