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Center for Middle Eastern Dialogue

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Center is to promote constructive dialogue about the Middle East that will explore ways to establish lasting peace in the region, encourage economic collaboration, and stimulate cultural and educational exchange. The Center provides a forum for students, faculty, community members, scholars, and diplomats of various points of view to exchange ideas in a respectful way that will promote greater understanding of this complex and volatile region of the world. We believe that the Center will demonstrate the possibility and value of meaningful dialogue between people of goodwill, even between those who disagree on fundamental issues.

Committee Members

  • Center Coordinator:  James Schiffer, Department of English
  • Mona Ali, Department of Economics
  • Hamid Azari, Department of Economics
  • Clinton Bennett, Department of Philosophy
  • Melike Karakas, Student, Department of Economics
  • Jacqueline Kerner, Department of Art History
  • Simin Mozayeni, Department of Economics
  • Ilgu Ozler, Department of Political Science and International Relations
  • Stephen Pampinella, Department of Political Science and International Relations
  • Rabbi William Strongin, Department of History and Jewish Studies Program


"Blood, Sweat and Tear Gas: Challenges to Autocracy in Turkey and the Middle East" - The April 23, 2014, program featured a talk by John VanderLippe, associate professor of history at the New School for Social Research.

VanderLippe's work includes "The Politics of Turkish Democracy" (2005), as well as numerous articles on Turkish Republic. He is the former Editor of the Middle East Studies Association Bulletin and has received grants from the NCSEER, the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Hoover Institution, and the HR Guggenheim Foundation.

This event was sponsored by The Center for Middle Eastern Dialogue at SUNY New Paltz, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Campus Auxiliary Services.

Dennis Ross"Challenges for American Foreign Policy in the Middle East" - The April 16, 2013, program explored the challenges for U.S. policy in the Middle East in 2013 and beyond. Dennis Ross, Ambassador and Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, examined the implications of the Arab Awakening for the region and U.S. policy; the U.S., Israel, and the Iranian nuclear issue; and what is possible for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Following the lecture, a question and answer session was moderated by Ottaway Fellow and NPR Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos. The program was a part of the university's Distinguished Speaker Series.

 "A Passport to the Middle East: A Career of Revolution, Upheaval and Hope" - The April 18, 2013, program featured a talk by NPR Foreign Correspondent Deborah Amos, winner of the 2013 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award. Ms. Amos used experiences from her more than 20 years of reporting from the Middle East to reflect on the upheaval in Syria and the impact of the Arab Spring. She considered the monumental changes in the region as a generational event. (More than 60 percent of the population of the Middle East is under 30.) A book signing and reception followed.

 "Voices from Iran: Contemporary Literature and Music" - The program focused on the many ways in which recent scholarship, works of fiction and memoirs from or about Iran, whether written originally in English or translated from Persian, is enhancing cultural dialogue between the peoples of the United States and Iran.

The program consisted of readings by Manijeh Nasrabadi from her memoir, "A Far Corner of the Revolution," followed by a lecture by Professor Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak titled, "In Search of Responsive Understanding: Iranians Bring their Story to the World."  Celebrated pianist Ariana Barkeshli performed a number of piano pieces from Iranian composers.

Manijeh Nasrabadi is a doctoral student at New York University and Co-Director of the Association of Iranian-American Writers. She holds a B.A. from Brown University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Hunter College. Dr. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak is Professor and Director of the Roshan Center for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Ariana Barkeshli is a pianist, music educator, and scholar. She has performed at American universities and at numerous international conferences and cultural events.

Students and faculty in a variety of disciplines benefited from this program on contemporary Iranian Literature and music. In light of much negative political coverage of Iran, this program helped our students, faculty, and community members learn about Iranian people, their experiences, culture, and aspirations.

"Diversity in the Middle East: Commonalities and Polarities" - The conference, led by SUNY New Paltz faculty and students, aimed to deepen understanding of the region through in-depth analysis of economic, political and religious factors. Drawing on knowledge and experience of the region, participants challenged stereotypes and common perceptions. Particular attention focused on commonalities that unite "us" and "them" and on polarities that divide people in the region and create distance between "our" aspirations and theirs. Breakout sessions on the role of women, Turkey, economics and politics, religious diversity and an exhibition of student art and a student-led plenary on youth and the spreading revolution, helped interpret current and recent events. Concurrent sessions ran on the topics of "Upheaval in the Middle East: A Path to Development?" organized by Professors Mona Ali (Economics) and Lewis Brownstein (Political Science).

"Islam and a Just World Order" - The Center presented a talk by Professor Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University. The event included musical entertainment by Yemeni singer, percussionist (dumbek and frame drum) and oud player Ahamed Alrodini and Israeli percussionist Isaac Gutwilik.

"Recent and Future U.S. Policy in the Middle East" - The inaugural event in April 2009 featured a discussion between Professor Fawaz A. Gerges of Sarah Lawrence College and Professor Lewis Brownstein of SUNY New Paltz.

Links of Interest


For more information, contact: 

James Schiffer, Professor of English
Phone: 845-257-3676, Email: