about the project executive summary meet the team

Peasant family of Ramallah,
circa 1900-1910

  • Research and Curricular Design Team


    Principal Investigator

    Maria Hantzopoulos is Assistant Professor of Education at Vassar College, where she is the coordinator of the Adolescent Education Certification Program and a participating faculty member in the programs in International Studies, Urban Studies, and Women's Studies. She teaches a variety of courses related to methodology, sociology of education, educational reform, and peace and justice studies. Prior to Vassar, Dr. Hantzopoulos supervised pre-service student teachers at Columbia University's Barnard and Teachers Colleges and worked as a staff developer with middle and high school teachers throughout New York City. As an experienced high school social studies educator and youth worker in New York City public schools, she has also worked with a variety of established youth organizations locally and globally, served on four small school planning teams, and presently remains active with many NGOs, non-profits, local schools on curriculum writing, advocacy, teacher-training, and policy. Her current research interests and projects involve immigration and schooling, urban educational reform, and peace and human rights education, and her work has appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed publications. She is co-editor, with Dr. Alia Tyner-Mullings, of the volume Critical Small Schools: Beyond Privatization in New York City Urban Educational Reform (Information Age, 2012) and is currently working on a manuscript about human rights education in New York City schools.


    Monisha Bajaj is Associate Professor of International and Multicultural Education at the University of San Francisco. Her research and teaching interests focus on education as a force for social transformation in the global South. Her book, Schooling for Social Change: The Rise and Impact of Human Rights Education in India (Continuum, 2011) was awarded the 2012 Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book Prize of the Comparative and International Education Society. Dr. Bajaj has also authored many articles on education and globalization, social inequalities, peace and human rights. She has also developed curriculum—particularly related to the incorporation of peace education, human rights, and sustainable development—for non-profit educational service providers and inter-governmental organizations, such as UNICEF and UNESCO. Prior to working at University of San Francisco, she was Associate Professor of International and Comparative Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

    Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher is Senior Lecturer in the Education, Culture and Society division at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. She earned her doctorate in International Educational Development with a specialization in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. Within the United States, her research focuses on the educational and socialization experiences of Muslim-immigrant youth, while outside of the U.S., her work has focused largely on curriculum and pedagogy issues in Muslim majority contexts. Currently, she is the lead researcher for a comparative study of constructions of citizenship in curricular discourse in Turkey and Pakistan. Dr. Ghaffar-Kucher has also been a curriculum and culture consultant for The Magic Tent, an educational television program in development for children in the Middle East and South Asia. She is co-editor, with Lesley Bartlett, of the volume Refugees, Migrants, and Education in the Global South: Lives in Motion (Routledge, 2013), which recently won the 2014 Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book Award from the Comparative and International Education Society.

    Roozbeh Shirazi is Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. His scholarship and research focuses on intersections of politics, gender, youth identities and practices of cultural representation, and schooling in the Middle East. Dr. Shirazi was a classroom teacher in a public school in Jersey City, New Jersey, and has subsequently worked as an educator and curriculum consultant in numerous international and multicultural settings. He has taught a range of undergraduate and graduate level courses serving pre-service teacher candidates and in-service teachers, as well as courses on contemporary Middle Eastern politics.

    Zeena Zakharia is Assistant Professor of International and Comparative Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She was Gebran G. Tueni Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Middle Eastern Studies Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer of International Educational Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. She serves as consultant to a number of international, governmental, and civil society organizations and has worked extensively with teachers and school leaders on curriculum, pedagogy, and policy, both in the Middle East and in the United States. Her publications consider the interplay of language, conflict, and peacebuilding in education. She is co-editor, with Ofelia García and Bahar Octu, of Bilingual Community Education and Multilingualism: Beyond Heritage Languages in a Global City (Multilingual Matters, 2013).

  • Historical Consultants


    Primary Consultant

    Nancy Khalek is the William A. Dyer Jr. Assistant Professor of the Humanities in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University, where she specializes in Late Antiquity and early Islam. She teaches a range of courses on Islam, historical and thematic, (on subjects such as law, gender and sexuality, mysticism, pilgrimage, political theory and Islam, and comparative religion) spanning medieval and modern periods. In addition to her focus on the rise of Islam, Dr. Khalek's research interests include Christian hagiography, the rise of historical writing in the Islamic world, relic and saint veneration in the broader Mediterranean, Christian-Muslim dialogue, and the relationship of material culture to religious life. Professor Khalek has conducted fieldwork in Jordan, Syria, Greece and Turkey. She has researched and published on early Islamic history and sectarian claims to religious orthodoxy and political authority in Islamic articulations of political theory in the medieval and modern periods. Her first book, entitled Damascus after the Muslim Conquest: Text and Image in Early Islam (Oxford University Press, 2011) was selected in 2012 as a finalist by the American Academy of Religion for Best First Book in the History of Religion Award. Dr. Khalek also helped with the textbook analysis that drove the study.

    Additional Consultants

    Leyla Amzi-Erdogdular is a specialist in late Ottoman history. Her recent dissertation at Columbia University, entitled Afterlife of Empire: Muslims in Habsburg Bosnia, 1878-1914, focused on the lasting continuities of empires in post-imperial space. Her research interests include migrations and pan-Islamism in the late Ottoman Empire, the rise of nationalism and identity politics in the Balkans, and sociopolitical aspects of Sufism in the 19th and 20th century Ottoman Empire and Turkey.

    Mouannes Hojairi is a Visiting Assistant Professor of history at the American University in Cairo, where he teaches courses on nationalism, sectarianism, and social movements in the Middle East. His research has examined the contested sectarian narratives in historiography that inform the Lebanese nationalist discourse. He is currently engaged in research on sectarianism and the spread of social movements in Egypt.

    Ilham Khuri-Makdisi is Associate Professor of Middle East and World History at Northeastern University. Her research focuses on the articulation and dissemination of radical ideas such as socialism and anarchism, in eastern Mediterranean cities. Specifically, she analyzes the establishment of migrant networks of intellectuals, dramatists and workers, and their roles in the spread of radical ideas in and between Beirut, Cairo, and Alexandria. In her book, The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism, 1860-1914 (University of California Press), she argues that the presence and activities of such (nominally 'peripheral') radical networks were central to the making of a globalized world and to the formulation of alternative visions of radicalism.

    Joshua Schreier is an Associate Professor of History at Vassar College. He works at the intersection of Middle Eastern, Algerian, Jewish, and French histories. His research focuses on French colonialism in Algeria, and notably how several deeply-rooted North African Jewish communities responded to French imperial policy in the years before the rise of the 'Imperial' (Third) Republic in 1870. His recently published book is entitled Arabs of the Jewish Faith: The Civilizing Mission in Colonial Algeria (Rutgers University Press, 2010).

  • Educational Consultants


    Bassel Akar is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at Notre Dame University in Louaize, Lebanon. His research focuses on learning and teaching for active citizenship in the context of the Middle East. Dr. Akar is currently working on the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education's Citizenship Education Reform Plan in collaboration with UK-based institutions. He has consulted for numerous international and local NGOs to develop social studies and other educational learning resource material, including for UNESCO Iraq and UNICEF Lebanon.

    Nagwa M. Megahed is Associate Professor at the Women's College of Arts, Sciences, and Education at Ain Shams University, Egypt. She was a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence for Middle East Studies at the University of Southern Mississippi. She has also served in numerous senior technical advisory capacities, such as for the USAID-funded Education Reform Program (Egypt); the Academy for Educational Development (USA); and UNICEF. She has published extensively on educational reform, teacher education, gender inequality, and Islam and education.

  • Research Assistants


    Allison Born is a Master’s student in the International Education Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania with a projected graduation of 2015. She spent the past two years in Ethiopia serving as an English Teacher Trainer in the United States Peace Corps. Her research interests include mathematics education, micro finance, gender equality, and adult education.

    Laura Conrad is a Master’s student in the International Educational Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania with a projected graduation of 2014. Originally from Washington, DC, she has spent the past three years teaching and is interested in curriculum development, urban education, and education for community development in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Kara Doriani is pursuing her Master's degree in the International Educational Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania with an expected graduation in December 2014. Her experience in nonprofits ignited her interest in marketing, entrepreneurship and nonprofit management. Kara's principal areas of focus are human rights, gender equality, and literacy in Latin and South America.

    Geoff Johnson holds a Master’s degree in history from the City University of New York Graduate Center. He received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

    Michael Kokozos is a doctoral student in the Education, Culture & Society program at the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include: citizenship, youth relations, gender & sexuality, identity, character & affective education, and globalization.

    Maha Laziri is currently a Master’s student in the International Educational Development Program at PennGSE. Born and raised in Morocco, Maha conducted her undergraduate studies at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. She majored in International studies with a focus on international development and cooperation and on the Middle East North Africa as an area of concentration. Maha founded Teach4Morocco and is its current coordinator.

    Laura McAdams is a Master’s student in the International Educational Development program (2012-2013 cohort) at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently living in Amman, Jordan with a Boren Fellowship, working as an intern at the UNESCO Amman office (Education Sector), volunteering in Educational Program Development with the Scientific Cultural Society of Jordan, and studying Levantine Colloquial Arabic. She hopes to continue living, working, and learning in the MENA region for years to come.

    Catharine Morgan an M.S.Ed student in the International Education Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania with a projected graduation of 2014. She has taught at an international school in Germany and spent two years teaching at a secondary school in Ukraine as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. She is interested in curriculum development, teacher training, cross-cultural learning, and girls' education.

    Sahara Pradhan is a student at Vassar College, Class of 2015, pursuing majors in International Studies and Education. Born and raised in Nepal, she is eager to explore the work of non-profit organizations in development and continues her education toward a career in the field of International Development and Education. She is interested in escaping the understandings that cultivate fenced houses and walled rivers and continents. She is excited to lose the ordinary for what she may find in possibility.

    Hannah Reynolds is a History Major at Vassar College, Class of 2016, where she is also working to receive a teaching certification in secondary social studies. She is originally from Portland, Oregon, and a proud member of the Vassar Night Owls, an all-female A Capella singing group on campus.

    Mia Sasaki currently is a graduate candidate (2014) at the University of Pennsylvania, studying in the field of International Education Development. From her previous experiences with Teach for America and Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services, she hopes to focus her studies on refugee education, specializing in working with Southeast Asian refugee populations.

    Amy Saul is a Master’s student in the International Educational Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania with a projected graduation of 2014. Originally from New Jersey, she is interested in indigenous language rights and education, community development, and educational inequality in Latin America.

    Cassandra Scarpino is an M.S.Ed candidate in the International Educational Development Program and graduate assistant at the University of Pennsylvania with a projected graduation of 2014. Originally from Florence, Italy, prior to moving to Philadelphia she collaborated with an international non-profit based in Dakar, Senegal focused on education and health, and worked with Latino immigrants in Washington, DC. Her interest is in early childhood education, parenting programs, advocacy in education, and public health.