Developing Regional Expertise in the Middle East

Sarah Abdella-El Kallassy
MA ’18
Middle East Studies
Awards and Fellowships: 2017 Fouad Ajami Fellow, 2017 Rumsfeld Foundation Graduate Fellow, 2017 Pat Tillman Scholar

Sarah’s time in the Middle East Studies Department at Johns Hopkins SAIS has pushed her to think critically and objectively about challenges faced by nations in the Middle East. Learning about the underlying connections both in politics and economics in the region has been invaluable to her in the process of selecting a research topic, empowering her to confidently conduct her work in Lebanon.

Prior to attending the school, Sarah proudly served in the United States Marine Corps and spent two, year-long deployments in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. As a Marine sergeant and Pashto linguist, Sarah was a liaison officer to the Afghan Government, focusing on assisting in the efforts to reintegrate Taliban members into the community through local initiatives.

During Sarah’s time in Afghanistan, she noticed there was a strong need for regional expertise in order to make sound tactical and policy decisions. She was drawn to Johns Hopkins SAIS due to the strong Middle East Studies curriculum, language program (where she studies both Arabic and Farsi), and unparalleled research opportunities.

After completion of her degree, Sarah hopes to work as a regional advisor to either the United States Government or private sector, providing the expertise she saw a great need for during her work in Afghanistan. She also hopes to pursue a PhD as one of her first loves is teaching.

Sarah is currently working with the Municipality of the city of Byblos (Jbeil in Arabic), the Rockefeller Foundation, and various implementing partners such as professional services firm ARUP to conduct an assessment of the Lebanese contributions to the 100 Resilient Cities initiative taking place in Byblos. As part of her assignment, she is taking an in-depth look at the Lebanese strategies and solutions that have been or will be implemented as part of the resilience strategy developed with assistance from ARUP. She has also contributed to developing a new ESL initiative at the Byblos Culture Center that will employ Lebanese English teachers and expand linguistic capacity of the residents of the city.