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September 1, 2016

RAND Scholar Shelly Culbertson Discusses the Education of Syrian Refugees

by Katie Verlin Laatikainen, Political Science

shelly-culbertsonLast November, as part of International Education Week, the International Studies Program was pleased to host a lecture by Shelly Culbertson, who spoke to the AU community on “The Education of Syrian Refugees in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.”

Culbertson is a policy analyst at the RAND Corporation who holds an MA from the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She co-led a multi-year effort to advise the Ministry of Education of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq on improving its K-12 and vocational education systems. Prior to joining RAND, Culbertson worked as a Foreign Affairs Officer on the Turkey Desk for the U.S. Department of State.

Newsday reported on her visit, observing that Culbertson cautioned the audience of the dangers of having 700,000 Syrian children in and out of school for several years; she warned that this was clearly not only bad for the children themselves, but also would have lasting repercussions for Syrian society at large. Culbertson also spoke about the gendering of refugee education: young boys are sent out to work odd jobs for cash, since their parents are prohibited from working in the host countries. This means that most of the Syrian children who attend part-time schooling are girls.

In April 2016, Culbertson published The Fires of Spring: A Post-Arab Spring Journey Through the Turbulent New Middle East––Turkey, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia (St Martin’s Press), and she took questions on larger questions of the New Middle East as well.

Culbertson’s visit was part of a series in which we invited practitioners in International Studies to speak about their careers; over the past few years we have hosted, in addition to Culbertson, the former Chief Privacy Officer for the Department of Homeland Security, speaking about EU-US privacy relations, and a former military attaché at the US Embassy in Beijing. Speakers such as these allow our majors and the AU community to see how an interdisciplinary approach to international affairs can enhance and shape professional trajectories.

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