MSU Hosts MEPI

Above, students from Oman, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Above, students from Oman, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

A.C.E. arranged for the MEPI students to be hosted for a reception by TDA and to attend the Seattle Rotary lunch.

2008 marks the fourth consecutive year that Montana State University has hosted the MEPI program.  The MEPI Study of the United States Institutes are part of the U.S. Department of State’s public diplomacy initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. Funded and administered by the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the MEPI Study of the United States Institute at Montana State University is one of five programs that take place in the summer on campuses across the United States. Each Institute offers an intensive six-week program for students from the Middle East and North Africa that focuses on the development of the participants’ leadership skills and expands their understanding of American society and culture. It includes an academic program conducted by scholars and other professionals with expertise in leadership and U.S. Studies, as well as a study tour to other regions of the country. Participants are also invited to attend an alumni conference in the Middle East or North Africa within one year of the conclusion of the program.

Program Design and Integration
This year’s program consists of 17 participants from 14 different countries from across the Middle East and North Africa. This cross-disciplinary institute provides international student participants with hands-on tools for leadership development as well as in-depth discussions of regional, national, and global leadership challenges.  The themes of the institute, “Democracy, Conflict, and Consensus,” highlight the issues participating students will encounter each week.  Students will explore productive ways to engage conflict as a tool for reaching consensus, and they will explore the particular challenges facing community and national leaders in the United States and in the Rocky Mountain West.  The goal is two-fold: participating students will interact in workshops to learn skills from public speaking to group negotiation, and they will interact with scholars and community leaders to discuss a range of contentious and important regional, national, and global issues. Each week in morning sessions participants will discuss issues presented to them by a range of scholars and community leaders, and during the afternoon they will work with several experienced trainers in leadership development. In addition, students will participate in several projects throughout the county and the region, and culminating in a one day service project at Glacier National Park. In addition, participants will tour the region extensively, visiting two national parks, one Indian reservation, the state capitol and a variety of other cultural, geographic, and historical sites of interest. Together, these experiences will provide a rich combination of intellectual, practical, and interactive activities designed to provoke discussions and reflection on the leadership challenges participants will face in their home countries.

The seminar takes advantage of both its geographic location and its rich range of local scholars. Faculty from Montana State University will discuss issues ranging from international migration to models of Native American leadership to environmental challenges within the region and the country. These faculty members will address concrete issues facing leaders in the West and in the United States, exploring the ways in which these issues generate conflict and various models for reaching consensus in a democratic society.  As part of this, students will also meet a range of local political leaders, from state representatives to city and county commissioners to student council members, and community leaders from social, cultural, and religious organizations. Afternoon workshops will be facilitated by experts in leadership development, including Deidre Combs, nationally recognized for her approaches to using conflict positively to generate community and consensus, Dr. Becky Smith, a specialist in organizational leadership and Josh Meyer, the director of experiential education at MSU, specializing in group learning and team-building. Students will use two texts focusing on leadership development: Participants will also have ample opportunities throughout the seminar for extended reflection on the leadership challenges and opportunities they face in their home countries and on the tools and contexts they learn within the seminar.

In addition to the academic portion of the institute, the MEPI 2008 program also places a large focus on civic engagement and volunteerism. During their time in Bozeman, participants visited and met with a number of community organizations including: the Boys and Girl’s Club, Sacks of Bozeman, the Gallatin County Food Bank, the Bozeman City Commission, and the Rotary Club.  After departing Bozeman the group travelled to Browning, Montana, where they were to take part in a community service project.  The group then visited Glacier National Park, culminating in an Amtrak train ride to Seattle.  In Seattle the group visited with several service organizations, including:  the Seattle Rotary Club, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce and the Trade Development Alliance, attended a reception with members of the Seattle Middle East Roundtable, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Seattle Foundation, and volunteered for a day at Northwest Harvest.  Next, the group visited New York City, and met with officials at the United Nations.  The trip came to a close in Washington, D.C., where participants attended a closing ceremony put on by the Department of State.

For more information on the MEPI program please visit: http://mepi.state.gov/

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