This past fall, the School of Diplomacy launched a new fellowship that, in partnership with other institutions, will allow it to serve as a catalyst for leaders around the world to counter violence. Supported in a collaboration with the William and Mary Greve Foundation, the Abd el Kader Fellowship is named for an influential Muslim leader from the mid-1800's whose actions of tolerance and diplomacy toward people of all faiths brought him global admiration. The inaugural Fellow, Seton Hall alumnus Mohamad Mirghahari, B.A. '02, M.A. '04, returned to campus to lead conferences, mentor a student research team, and engage members of the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of State, and the Special Operations Community.
After eight months of research on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, the Fellowship research team traveled to Washington, D.C. to present their findings and policy suggestions to Afghanistan teams from both the U.S. Department of State and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Graduate student researchers Michelle Perez, Oluwagbemiga Oyeneye, James Meil, and Jake Virgili, were accompanied by Mirghahari and Associate Dean Elizabeth Halpin. The Acting Director for the Office of South Asia Analysis Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Mr. Harold Ingram, welcomed and hosted the team as they presented to the State Department's Afghanistan Desk Officer, primary Afghanistan analysts, and the top Iran expert. In addition, their research was shared with CIA Afghanistan analysts. The concluding recommendations included the promotion of Emir Abd el Kader as an example of Muslim tolerance, careful attention to human rights and humane military leadership in the U.S. approach to building relationships, inclusion of women at negotiating tables, implementation of vocational education programming, and the use of technology for educational purposes in rural areas.
The Afghanistan Desk Officer was traveling directly from the students' presentation to a meeting at the White House with the National Security Council regarding U.S. engagement in Afghanistan and expressed that he would present the team's ideas to the Council. He was particularly interested in the suggestion on vocational education and noted that he would be inquiring with the U.S. Agency for International Development as to why the Agency was not already providing this training. Acting Director Ingram suggested he would be disseminating the presentation and research paper widely to his colleagues and that he would also share it with the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.
Reflecting on her experience of traveling to Washington, D.C and presenting for U.S. State Department officials, Michelle Pérez said, "The process of preparing to brief these high-level officials pushed our team past all doubts, limitations, and boundaries; helping us to discover previously unknown skills."
When completing intense collaborative policy analysis, a steady hand is required to direct researchers through both predictable and unforeseen obstacles as they attempt to integrate academic knowledge with on-the-ground realities and devise practical solutions to complex issues. The students were particularly grateful for Mirghahari's leadership and guidance throughout this challenging undertaking. "Mr. Mirghahari's patience, tenacity, sagacity, and foresight made him a great teacher and mentor for our team," Pérez said. "We owe the sharpness of our proposals and their attention to detail to him and his extensive knowledge on this issue."
When asked about his research team experience overall, James Meil noted, "A key aspect was the opportunity throughout the process to conduct one-on-one discussions with professionals from each students' respective field of interest. While beneficial for our project's development, these meetings also provided each student with the opportunity to receive meaningful career guidance."
Building upon academic foundations with collaborative research and real-world experience is a consistent trademark of Diplomacy student life. The Abd el Kader Fellowship and its projects continue this tradition, expanding the opportunities for students to make substantive contributions to the practice of diplomacy.
Categories: Nation and World