Influence and Governance

Keynote Speaker:





Muslim Ban: What’s Next for Our Community?

Lawyers and community organizers will examine what is next for our community, both in terms of legal challenges and community organizing following the Supreme Court Muslim Ban decision in Trump v. Hawaii. Discussions will include how the Muslim Ban decision fits within a larger apparatus of criminalization and state surveillance of Muslim and Arab Americans. The panelists will discuss the short and long-term impact of the ban on communities they serve – for instance, by sharing experiences of Yemeni relatives of U.S. citizens attempting to reunite with their families in the U.S. The conversation will also focus on the potential impact of recent litigation, such as a class action law suit regarding the government’s failure to provide fair case-by-case waivers from the travel ban. Finally, panelists will discuss efforts to build intersectional communities of resistance.





The Role of Students Abroad in The Intellectual Reform of The Arab World

Panel Chair: Dr. Essam Heggy

Lecture and a Panel with Open Discussion and final recommendations

Can science and education reform the Arab world deep from its roots up to its falling leaves? Can it succeed in establishing peace and sustainability where current political processes have failed? These might look as redundant questions, but the truth  is that they are urging today more than anytime through the modern history of this area. In this decade US and European universities are witnessing a surprising surge of applicants and enrollments in Arab students. One can easily notice that most of those who will freshly graduate will never come back but surprisingly at a more advanced part of the professional curriculum some of them do return to serve in governmental or entrepreneurial roles. It is no surprise that a significant population of government officials and leaders in the MENA area are graduates of international universities a remarkable observation among this population that mostly all would have served at one step in student unions abroad. The session will address several questions: What role is there for Arab students abroad today? Can Arab student abroad be a motor for change and tolerance in the area? How Arab alumni from US and European universities succeeded in changing their countries of origin? What does it take? Why some fails and other succeeded? Why are the key parameters that define their success? How can Arab students abroad establish be the seed for the needed socio-economic changes in the Arab world?




Social Media and Accountability 

Social media, undeniably, is a powerful tool that in today’s atmosphere can make or break an individual’s career, determine the success of many products, and influences the many decisions “followers” make. In this context, numerous Influencers have leveraged the digital platforms of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, accessing audiences of millions worldwide. These individuals use social media to stand up for what they believe in, market brands, function as icons and role models for youth while also advancing their careers. Whose voice are they representing when they lend their name to a product or brand? How do they maintain authenticity while being sponsored by companies that are not their own? Most importantly, to what extent do they feel like they have the responsibility to use their powers of influence to cultivate civically engaged dialogue around their work? And ultimately, what are they promoting?

Social media has transformed our perception of what is desirable, and the aspirations of our youth; We must ask ourselves how it has impacted the future of our region. Are our social conducts, and goals now looking more Western?  This panel discussion seeks to hold a powerful, discussion on questions around the use of social media to advance topics related to race, government, politics, fashion, and identity. By providing a multi-faceted presentation of the different ways prominent Arab and Arab American influencers use social media as a platform, we hope to present conference attendees with a rich, bird’s eye perspective of the power social media plays in continuing to change homogenized, stereotypical views of Arabs.

Some challenging questions that will be addressed: 

(1)  Slacktivisim is a term coined by those who study social media trends, it contends that excessive use of social media is actually making the youth less engaged in society and politics. To what extent do you agree with these phenomena and if you believe it is a problem, how do you, as social media influencers, think you can contribute to reversing the trend? What do you currently do to encourage youth to be more actively engaged with issues related to their societies?

(2)  Many individuals will use their social media platforms to discuss their views on politics, society, gender and equality. Many of you utilize these platforms as lucrative mediums or for purposes of brand representation. How do you reconcile representing yourself while simultaneously serving as the face or name for a brand that is not your own?

(3)  Given that you are often viewed as role models to your followers, what messages do you believe you are sending to the youth? 





Women in Development 

How do you go from the state of re-imagining home to making your vision a reality? To dare to re-imagine, to let your imagination take you beyond the status quo, to share your vision, to look for those who endorse you, to navigate your relationships with opposers and blockers are but a few dimensions of what it takes to make change in the Arab World. These difficulties are even more compounded for women — how do you make your voice heard in a male-dominant society? How do you pursue your vision without compromising on your role as wife, mother, and daughter? How do you push yourself when times are low, when some of your closest co-workers have lost their motivations, and when investors are skeptical? How do you navigate the political landscape if you grew up outside the country and are labelled as a foreigner in your country of origin? 

In this panel, we bring women who have dared to (re)imagine and have defeated the hurdles to change the status quo. From the NGO, private, public, and academic sector, they have flown in from different parts, to tell you the bumps in the roads, the hurdles, the high points and low points, and how they made it work. Join us to listen and discuss their stories with transparency.





(Re)imagining the Arab City

The Arab world is home to both some of civilization’s oldest and newest cities. It is one of the most urbanized regions on the globe, and is undergoing rapid and massive change towards greater urbanization. Among the greatest tensions in urban development models is how to accommodate growth and address challenges that accompany it. While each locale within the region has a unique history and set of challenges, many have chosen a similar approach of abandoning the old in favor of the new.

This panel seeks to explore the following questions: what are the dominant urban trends in the region today? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these models in addressing urban challenges? In what ways do these models account for socioeconomic diversity? How can historical plans and structures be leveraged rather than abandoned?


Workshop: Debate 101

This training is designed to assist the participants in conveying their opinions and experience through interactive exercises that focus on problem solving, and strategic framing of ideas. At the end of the training, participants would have developed a better understanding of how to communicate effectively. They will be ready to actively engage in discussions, have a higher awareness of communication style and how it impacts different audiences; and confidence in delivering speeches.