Wayne State hosting diverse leadership program for Middle Eastern students

August 6, 2008

Detroit - University students from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and other Middle Eastern and North African countries have gathered on Wayne State's campus to soak up all the inter-cultural living, leadership and civic activism that Detroit has to offer.

Wayne State's Center for Peace and Conflict Studies is hosting the Student Leaders Program, funded by a $278,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). One of six universities chosen for their exceptionally diverse communities and dedication to intercultural education, WSU will provide the venue for 18 of the total 116 international participants. The program combines classroom seminars and field activities that illuminate various approaches to inter-cultural living and illustrate the importance of civic engagement and social service.

Dr. Frederic S. Pearson, professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at WSU, said the goal of the program is to give participants both the skills and inspiration for spearheading positive change in their own countries.

"Detroit is a wonderfully appropriate city for people from abroad to experience issues of diversity, civic engagement, and leadership," he said. "We feature wonderful leadership legacies such as that of our hero Rosa Parks, and also great stories of inter-ethnic understanding and success."

Field activities already partaken by participants include a visit to the Jewish Community Center of Metro Detroit for insight on civic activities, and a trip to Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy's office for a deeper understanding of the American justice system. In addition, a visit to Mayor of Dearborn John B. O'Reilly's office provided perspectives on the immigrant experience characteristic of many Dearborn residents.

"Coming into the program, the students had a great deal of knowledge and excitement about the U.S. but still are surprised by many things they see and experience," Pearson said. "They did not have the full awareness of American perspectives and customs, so an experience like this gives them a rich background that will help them interpret the perceptions and historical experiences in this country that make up our society."

Weekly classroom objectives will address the complexities of pluralistic communities, dispute resolution, and conflicting perspectives between the Middle East and the West on topics of leadership and civil society, and will include lecturers and student participants from Wayne State University, Henry Ford Community College and Lebanese American University.
The program will continue from now until mid-August, and will include week-long visits to both Chicago and New Orleans for additional inter-cultural community exposure and leadership training.

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world.