Tomorrow’s Leaders Program

Tomorrow’s Leaders Graduate Virtual Conference: “Youth Leadership through Interdisciplinary Knowledge Production”

LAU has partnered with the Middle East Partership Initiative (MEPI), the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the American University in Cairo (AUC) to commemorate the conclusion of the inaugural Tomorrow’s Leaders Graduate Program (TLG) for the 2020-2021 academic year with the Tomorrow’s Leaders Graduate: “Youth Leadership through Interdisciplinary Knowledge Production” Conference. The conference, which will be held on June 23 and 24, 2021 from 16:00 to 19:00 Beirut time, will showcase, acknowledge, and celebrate students’ achievements. 

Research is the backbone of the TLG program. From the beginning of their academic path, TLG students are engaged in research activities, first through graduate assistantship, assisting faculty mentors in their research and/or at the same time developing their own research skills, then through their own full-fledged research for a thesis or a project. During their academic path, TLG students are encouraged to attend different academic events, like conferences, workshops and webinars, where research processes and results are disseminated, exchanged and discussed by prominent researchers in their field. Presenting their own work in a conference, is the major reward and learning experience they ultimately receive in their TLG journey. Here students have the opportunity to publicly present, discuss and receive feedback on their own research to become an integral part of an active research community. This year, with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the constraints on international travel, the TLG student conference will be held virtually through an online platform.

Organizing Committee

LAU MEPI-TL Graduate Program (TLG)

LAU was the first university in the MENA region to implement the Tomorrow’s Leaders Graduate (TLG) Program in 2018. The program is a fully funded scholarship by the United States Department of State, MEPI. By summer 2021, LAU would have graduated 19 TLG scholars in the following disciplines:

The Program spans over a period of two years with the purpose of equipping graduate students with the professional experience needed to advance their academic knowledge and engage in research that furthers the professionalization of emerging leaders while supporting and increasing scholars’ knowledge in gender issues in specific in their various fields of study.

AUB Tomorrow’s Leaders Graduate Program (TLG)

AUB TLG is a leadership training program by the U-S- Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative (ME​PI). Its objective is to support academically qualified and economically deserving students in the MENA region by providing graduate study and organized research that advances knowledge, furthers the professionalization of emerging leaders, and contributes to the implementation of socially relevant initiatives. AUB has received two US federal assistance awards under MEPI-TLG through which scholarships are being awarded to students who are committed to work on research projects associated to their eligible graduate programs of study.

AUC Tomorrow’s Leaders Graduate Students Program

Tomorrow’s Leaders Graduate (TLG) students program is a joint effort between the US Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA/AC), and AUC. TLG equips academically qualified and economically deserving students with the professional qualifications and experience needed to advance knowledge and contribute to the achievement of socially relevant outcomes through organized graduate study and research that furthers the professionalization of emerging leaders and proposes local solutions to shared problems in the MENA region.

Guest Speakers

Dr. Elise Salem

Dr. Salem joined LAU as a tenured full professor and Vice President for Student Development and Enrollment Management (SDEM) in July 2008. The SDEM unit is committed to the recruitment, retention and transformation of students through enrollment management, student services, program development and co-curricular engagement activities. SDEM also manages all USAID and MEPI-TL student scholarship grants. SDEM is guided by LAU’s strategic plan and by the university’s six-phrased mission, which includes the following four that speak to the heart of SDEM: a commitment to student centeredness, civic engagement, the education of the whole person, and the formation of leaders in a diverse world. Before joining LAU, Dr. Salem was a professor of literature at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, the Assistant Dean for Academic Planning and the Associate Provost for Global Learning.

Dr. Iman Osta

Dr. Iman Osta is an associate professor of mathematics education in the Department of Education. She served as assistant dean of the School of Arts and Sciences from October 2014 to September 2018. She also chaired the Department of Education from October 2010 to September 2012. Dr. Osta was an education faculty member at the American University of Beirut from 1990 to 1999, after which she joined LAU. Throughout her career, she has taught graduate courses in mathematics education, curriculum design, research methodology, educational technology and others, as well as undergraduate courses in the fields of pre- and in-service teacher preparation for teaching mathematics at all grade levels, as well as technology for teachers. She recently created and developed the specialty courses of the STEM education emphasis under LAU’s MA in Education program, the first and unique degree granting program in STEM education in Lebanon and the region.


Dr. Rabih Talhouk

Rabih Talhouk, Professor of Cell Biology at the American University of Beirut (AUB), obtained his PhD in 1988 at Ohio State University. He then held a joint post-doctoral position at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California San Francisco before joining the Biology Department at AUB in October 1992. He has been there since. With more than 75 publications, current work in his laboratory focuses deciphering the mechanisms that regulate the interaction of normal and breast cancer cells with their microenvironment.  Dr. Talhouk, founding Chairperson (2011-2017) of the Graduate Council at AUB, has mentored more than 65 graduate students. In 2010 he won the AUB teaching excellence award and in 2018 the Lebanese Industrial Research Achievement (LIRA) Distinguished Supervisor Award.  He has been involved in campus wide strategic planning, and university accreditation. Talhouk has also served AUB as Chairperson of the Biology Department and has held leadership positions on several university committees. Currently he is the Director of the Middle East Partnership Initiative-Tomorrow’s Leaders Graduate (MEPI-TLG) and Education for Leadership in Crisis (ELC) Scholarship Program at AUB.  He co-authored the government adopted biology text-book for grade 12 in all schools of Lebanon. He has held several consultancies on adoption of biotechnology in the MENA region, food security, GMO and biosafety. He also served on consulting teams to Universities in the Gulf region. He has been serving on the International Breast Cancer and Nutrition (IBCN) executive committee and chairing the IBCN local organizing committee for the past eight years.

Dr. Nadine Sika

Dr. Nadine Sika is associate professor of Comparative Politics at the American University in Cairo. She was Humboldt Foundation Visiting Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin (2014-2015).She is the book reviews editor of Mediterranean Politics, Associate editor of Democratization. She is author of Youth Activism and Contentious Politics in Egypt: Dynamics of Continuity and Change (Cambridge UP, 2017) and co-editor with Eberhard Kienle of the Arab Uprisings: Transforming and Challenging State Power (I.B. Tauris 2015). Her recent articles appeared in journals such as Democratization, Political Studies, Mediterranean Politics and the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.

Honorary Keynote Speaker

Dr. Maya Mikdashi

Maya Mikdashi is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and a lecturer in the program in Middle East Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.Maya is an anthropologist (PhD Columbia University, 2014) who is deeply engaged in ethnographic, legal, and archival theory and methodology. She currently is completing a book manuscript that examines the war on terror, sexual difference, secularism, and state power in the contemporary Middle East from the vantage point of Lebanon.

Maya has been a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow from 2014-2016 at Rutgers University, and a Faculty Fellow/Director of Graduate Studies, Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University (2012-2014). She has published widely in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes, in addition to online platforms. She is a co-founding editor of the e-zine is also a filmmaker and writer, she is co-director of the feature length documentary film About Baghdad (2004), co- founding member of filmmaking cooperative Quilting Point Productions, and director of Notes on The War (2006). Most recently Maya co-conceptualized, co-wrote (with director Carlos Motta), and performed in a historical fantasy film set in 19th century Beirut and Bogota, Deseos/رغبات”, which is currently playing in international film and art festivals.

Panel/Forum Chairs

Dr. Zina Sawaf

Dr. Zina Sawaf is an assistant professor of gender studies at the Lebanese American University. Dr. Sawaf’s research and teaching span the subfields of social anthropology, gender studies and gulf studies. She has written and published on ethnographic practice in the Arab region, divorce and intimate life in Saudi Arabia, and the history of anthropology in Lebanon. Her book manuscript provisionally titled Encountering the State: Women and Intimate Lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in the Arabian Peninsula, is a study of embodied encounters between women and the processes, offices, and officials of the state.

Ms. Lina Abou-Habib

Ms. Lina Abou-Habib is a Research Associate and Gender Director at the Asfari Institute. She holds a Master’s degree in public health from AUB. Ms. Abou-Habib works on actively linking the women’s movement in Lebanon to sister activists in the region and abroad as well as contributing to shaping of feminist public struggles related to women’s rights; and mentoring young feminists. Sha has held several positions in the Arab Institute for Women, Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action (CRTD-A), Women Learning Partnership and Oxfam GB. Ms. Abou-Habib has also published several articles on gender.​

Mr. Hani Hassan

Hani Hassan obtained his BA (1999) and MA (2002) in philosophy from the American University of Beirut (AUB), and has been a full time Instructor at the Civilization Studies Program (CVSP) and the Philosophy department at AUB since 2003. From 1998 and through to 2010 he was heavily involved in the annual theater productions at AUB, both as actor and Assistant Director in numerous plays. He is currently a PhD in Philosophy candidate at the Lebanese University (ABD). Hani Hassan has been serving as the Director of the MEPI TLU program at AUB since March 2014.

Dr. Paul Tabar

Paul Tabar is the director of the Institute for Migration Studies and a Professor in Sociology/Anthropology at the Lebanese American University, Beirut campus. He is the author of Arab Communities in Australia (Arab Centre for Arab Unity Studies, 2013) and the co-author of On Being Lebanese in Australia: Identity, Racism and the Ethnic Field (Institute for Migration Studies, LAU, 2010), Bin Laden in the Suburbs: Criminalizing the Arab Other (Institute of Criminology, 2004) and Kebabs, Kids, Cops and Crime: Youth, Ethnicity and Crime (Pluto Australia, 2000). He is currently working on Lebanese diasporic communities and their diasporic public activities. He is also working on two book projects: one on migrant habitus focusing on second generation Lebanese Australians as a case study, and the other on social inequalities in Lebanon using a Bourdieusian perspective.

Dr. Ali Fakih

Dr. Ali Fakih is an Associate Professor and the Associate Chair of the Department of Economics at the Lebanese American University. He is also a fellow at the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Analysis of Organizations (CIRANO), Global Labor Organization (GLO), and a Research Associate at the Economic Research Forum (ERF). He received his Ph.D. in Economics in 2011 from HEC Montréal, the business school affiliated with l’Université de Montréal. His research interests include labor economics, development economics, applied econometrics, applied microeconomics, and MENA economies.

Dr. Nadine Sika

Dr. Nadine Sika is associate professor of Comparative Politics at the American University in Cairo.  She was Humboldt Foundation Visiting Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin (2014-2015). She is the book reviews editor of Mediterranean Politics, Associate editor of Democratization. She is author of Youth Activism and Contentious Politics in Egypt:  Dynamics of Continuity and Change (Cambridge UP, 2017) and co-editor with Eberhard Kienle of the Arab Uprisings: Transforming and Challenging State Power (I.B. Tauris 2015).Her recent articles appeared in journals such as Democratization, Political Studies, Mediterranean Politics and the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.

Dr. Salma Nachabe-Talhouk

Dr. Salma N. Talhouk is a tenured full professor in the department of landscape design and ecosystem management in the faculty of agricultural and food sciences at the American University of Beirut. Her focus is on advancing community stewardship of natural resources, exploring digital technologies for nature conservation, shedding light on cultural ecosystem services, and investigating the use of native and ecologically adapted plants for roofs and green walls. Talhouk is currently leading a participatory mapping of natural and cultural landmarks in Lebanon through crowdsourcing using Daskara a free phone application that she developed with her team in collaboration with ‘Fondation Diane’. To reach out to the public Talhouk published an extracurricular nature-based activity manual for schools, a book on the trees of Lebanon for society, a manual on forest tree nurseries management for NGOs and municipalities, a children’s Arabic alphabet nature book, and she translated Dr. Seuss’s Lorax children book into Arabic. Her more recent interest is a project that explores the links between nature and culture by defining nature and natural resources as an object of cultural concern providing nonmaterial services, such as recreation, aesthetic experiences, healing, and spiritual enrichment. Professor Talhouk was founding Director of AUB’s Nature Conservation Center; she has served as the chairperson of the Department of Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management and as the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences. She is currently the founding Chair of the AUB botanic garden committee, a member of the steering committee of the ecosystem services partnership, and a member of the IUCN Arabian Plant specialist group.

Dr. Marwan Rowayheb

Dr. Marwan G. Rowayheb is an associate professor of political science and international affairs and the chairperson of the Department of Social Sciences at LAU. He teaches courses on research methods, Lebanese politics, Middle East government, comparative politics and protest movements. His research interest includes ethnic relations, state-society relations, conflict resolution, Middle Eastern politics and social and protest movements. His current research is currently geared towards peace movements and the causes of civil wars. He strongly believes that more research should be done in these two areas to better understand how civil wars start and end.

Conference Program

“Youth Leadership through Interdisciplinary Knowledge Production”

June 23-24, 2021

4:00 pm-7:00 pm (Beirut time)

Day 1: Wednesday 23 June, 2021
“Youth, Education, Gender and Empowerment”

4:00 pm National Anthems

4:05 pm

Welcome notes

4:20 pm

About TLG

4:30 pm

Honorary Keynote speaker: Dr. Maya Mikdashi

(Assistant Professor, - Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Rutgers University – USA)

5:00 pm

Research Panel 1: Theme: Gender Studies

(Moderator: Dr. Zina Sawaf - Assistant Professor of Gender Studies, LAU)

Students presenting:

5:55 pm

Civic Engagement Forum 1: Focus: Gender

(Moderator: Ms. Lina Abou-Habib - Interim Director of the Asfari Institute, FAS, AUB)

Students presenting:

6:20 pm

Research Panel 2: Theme: Youth, Education and Empowerment

(Moderator: Mr. Hani Hassan - Civilization Sequence Program; FAS and Director of MEPI-TLU, AUB)

Students presenting:

Day 2: Thursday 24 June, 2021

“Migration, Policies, Development and International Affairs”

4:00 pm

Opening remarks

4:05 pm

Research Panel 3: Theme: Migration

(Moderator: Dr. Paul Tabar - Professor in Sociology/Anthropology, LAU)

Students presenting:

4:50 pm

Research Panel 4: Theme: Environment, Agriculture and Development

(Moderator: Dr. Ali Fakih – Associate Professor of Economics, LAU)

Students presenting:

6:10 pm (Parallel Sessions)

Civic Engagement Forum 2: Focus: Youth, Education and Empowerment

(Moderator: Dr. Nadine Sika – Associate Professor of Political Science, AUC)

Students presenting:

Civic Engagement Forum 3: Focus: Environment, Agriculture and Development

(Moderator: Dr. Salma Nachabe-Talhouk - Professor of Landscape Horticulture, AUB)

Students presenting:

6:30 pm

Research Panel 5: Theme: International Affairs

(Moderator: Dr. Marwan Rowahyeb - Associate Professor of Political Science/International Affairs Chair, LAU)

Students presenting:

7:10 pm

Closing Remarks