Photo of student with elderly Jordanian man, smiling at each other.

Project Week provides a welcome change to the normal class routine so students can acquaint themselves with interesting topics related to hot socio-political and cultural issues in Jordan and the Middle East.

Project Week provides a welcome change to the normal class routine so students can acquaint themselves with interesting topics related to hot socio-political and cultural issues in Jordan and the Middle East. During the week, students are involved in experiential activities, site visits, talks, and discussions with a diverse group of experts, activists, and communities from different local and international organizations in Jordan. These diverse activities help students learn more about Jordanian society and culture through exploring specific topics. These topics have included tribes and tribalism, refugees, countering violent extremism, environmental issues, sustainability and development, youth culture, and urban planning in Jordan. Following Project Week, students continue to explore their theme by writing a research paper/recording a speech as part of their MSA course.

Below are some of the activities and student thoughts from previous Project Weeks.

Fall 2019

During Fall 2019 Project Week, students explored the following themes:

  • Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in Jordan
  • Tribes and Tribal Society in Jordan
  • Refugees in Jordan

The Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) group visited the Princess Salma Center for Childhood and the Naya Community Network. The week also included hosting several expert guest speakers. These visits and talks covered topics such as the underlying causes of extremism, the relationship between education and extremism, and the tools to combat extremism in Jordan. The program also screened the movie Paradise Now, which profiles the life of two men planning a suicidal attack.

The Tribes and Tribalism group had a unique chance to visit and talk to some local tribal figures. They were able to learn about the historical, social, political, and legal aspects of Jordanian tribes. They gained a significant amount of information on tribal traditions and laws, the role of women in the tribes, the younger generation’s views on tribalism in Jordan, among other aspects.

The group studying refugees in Jordan had visits to the Jordanian Parliament and the UNHCR. Hosted guest speakers were from the Norwegian Refugee Council, IRAP, and the Refugee Affairs Coordinator at the Ministry of the Interior. Sessions and visits discussed the legal aspect of asylum and resettlement, refugee policy as well as the impact of asylum seekers on Jordan, and education programs offered for refugees in Jordan.

The winning papers are:

Level 1: Abigail Belisle, University of Kentucky: The Role of Women in Extremist and Terrorist Groups;

Level 1: Calvin Pugh, George Washington University: R stands for Rifle. T stands for Tank: How Terrorist Cells Use Propaganda and Education to Influence Children and How We Can Fight It;

Level 2: Anyssia Kokinos, Washington University: Problems with Terrorist Trials in Jordan;

Level 2: Maddie Powder, George Washington University: The Role of Education Curricula in Extremism;

Level 3: Min Wong, George Washington University: Challenges of Fighting Violent Extremism in Jordan;

Level 4: Christopher Hassel, Duke University: The Future Vision for Jordanian Tribes (audio).

Spring 2019

During Spring 2019 Project Week, students explored three core themes:

  • Refugees in Jordan
  • Environment and Development in Jordan 
  • Tribes and Tribal Society in Jordan

The Environment and Development group visited the Municipality of Greater Amman, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, the Center for Energy Research in the Royal Scientific Society, and Engicon, a global engineering consulting firm, among others. During these visits, students explored issues related to urban planning and green spaces, water scarcity, energy efficiency and alternative power, and challenges of transportation in Amman.

The Tribes and Tribalism group got a comprehensive introduction on “Tribes & Tribalism in Jordan”, which covered social, political and historical aspects of this defining feature of Jordanian society. They learned about tribal law and women in tribes, and visited Jordan Heritage, a group of young Jordanians who have set out to preserve the Jordanian heritage in various fields, to name just a few activities.

The group studying refugees in Jordan had visits to the UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and HOPES, an organization that seeks to provide better access to quality further and higher education opportunities for refugees from Syria, as well as young people in the host communities. They also screened films about life in refugee camps and as refugees in Amman, and met with young Syrian filmmakers.  

Fall 2018

During Fall 2018 Project Week, students explored the following themes:

  • Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in Jordan
  • Tribes and Tribal Society in Jordan
  • Refugees in Jordan

The CVE group visited the Division of Child Education in the Ministry of Culture, Peace Community Center, Al-Hayat Center for Civil Society Development, Jordanian Center for the Fight Against Intellectual Extremism in Zarqa governorate, and the mayor and Security Council in Ma’an governorate. During these visits, students explored issues related to CVE through culture and art, the challenges and successes of the Jordanian government and NGOs with regard to CVE, and the role of the military in CVE.

The Tribes and Tribalism group visited tribes and clans in different cities in Jordan. They were invited to meet with representatives of the Al-Majali tribe in Al-Kerak where they not only discussed various issues but were also offered the traditional Jordanian mansaf. They also explored issues related to women and tribal law, tribal structures and the relation between tribes, the relationship between the government and tribes, and the tribes’ contribution to the political and civic life in Jordan.

The group studying refugees visited the International Refugee Assistant Project (IRAP), Sawiyan, UNHCR, the Parliament, Happiness Again, and the Norwegian Refugee Council. During these visits, students explored issues related to resettlement and legal issues concerning refugees in Jordan, minority refugees in Jordan, and the challenges that face refugees, NGOs, and the government in Jordan.

In the weeks following Project Week, each student developed a research paper/recording on a topic related to their group’s theme. As in previous semesters, the paper/recording was an MSA course requirement, and the best paper/recording in each MSA class was awarded a prize.

The winning papers are below:

Level 1: Davis Handler, George Washington University: ISIS’s Use of the Internet;

Level 2: William O’Neal, Washington University: The Development of Jalwa in Jordanian Society;

Level 2: Marisa Edmondson, Middlebury College: The Influence of President Trump’s Policies on Refugees in Jordan;

Level 2: Lauren Bates, Middlebury College: The Role of Religion in Countering Violent Extremism;

Level 3: John Carew, Middlebury College: The Abuse of Freedom by Terrorist Groups;

Level 4: Lisa Sandoval, Middlebury Institute of International Studies: Psychological Support for Refugees in Amman (audio).

Spring 2018

We explored three core themes:

  • Refugees in Jordan
  • Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in Jordan
  • Tribes and Tribal Society in Jordan

Students were involved in experiential activities, site visits, talks, and discussions with a diverse group of experts, activists, and communities from different local and international organizations in Jordan. These diverse activities helped students to immerse themselves in Jordanian society and culture. The CVE group’s visits took them to The Center for Strategic Studies, The lawyers’ Union, I-Dare and Hayat organizations. Students studying the Tribal Society visited tribes and listened to speakers about tribal law and women in tribes. The Refugee group met with activists advocating for refugees of minority backgrounds, especially Sudanese refugee advocates, and also had the opportunity to cook with refugee filmmakers and watch their movies.

The project week involved two assignments depending on the language level of students. The MSA 4+5 students were required to produce a speech recording. The MSA 2+3 students were required to write a research paper.

In the weeks following Project Week, each student developed a research paper/recording on a topic related to their group’s theme. As in previous semesters, the paper/recording was an MSA course requirement, and the best paper/recording in each MSA level was awarded a prize. The winning research papers are below:

Sarah Thomas (Washington University in St. Louis, Level 2 MSA): Women in the Modern Phase of Radicalization: the Change in Women’s Role in ISIS

Catherine Haseman (Baylor University, Level 3 MSA): The Discrepancy in Aid: Comparing the approach to Syrian and Sudanese Refugees in Jordan

Fall 2017

We explored three core themes:

  • Refugees in Jordan
  • Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in Jordan
  • Tribes and Tribal Society in Jordan

As in each semester, Project Week was an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in and learn more about the Jordanian society and culture. During this week, students were involved in experiential activities, field visits, talks, and discussions with a diverse group of experts, activists, and communities from different local and international organizations and sites in Jordan. Some of the visits took them to Questscope, UNICEF Innovation Lab, Wehdat Camp, Habes Al-Majali Museum, members of Jordanian tribes in Salt, and the Circassian Charity Association.
The project week involved two assignments depending on the language level of students. The MSA 4 students were required to produce a speech recording. The MSA 1,2, and 3 students were required to write a research paper.

In the weeks following Project Week, each student developed a research paper/recording on a topic related to their group’s theme. As in previous semesters, the paper/recording was an MSA course requirement, and the best paper/recording in each MSA level was awarded a prize.

The winning papers are below:

Lauren Remaley (George Washington University, Level 3 MSA): Sudanese Refugees in Jordan and the Politics of Aid

Eva Kahan (Tufts University, Level 2 MSA): From 1917 to 2017: Al-Hwaitat Tribe in the Jordanian Armed Forces

William Ford (College of the Holy Cross, Level 2 MSA): The Situation of Sudanese Refugees in Jordan: Challenges, Needs, and the Lack of Advocacy

Naomi Whitney-Hirschmann (Wellesley, Level 1 MSA): Refugees and Labor in Jordan

Other outstanding student research papers this semester:

Nelson Del Rio (MIIS, Level 3 MSA): The Economy of CVE

Billie White (Middlebury College, Level 2 MSA): The Power of Language in Discussions about Refugees in Western Media

Marivi Howell-Arza (Duke University, Level 1 MSA): The Role of Refugees’ Psychology in Joining Extremist Organizations

Nataly Karimi (George Washington University, Level 1 MSA): The Status of Refugees Determines Their Lives