Student Conference Explores Power, Influence, and Authority in Middle East

Student presenting during the M.E.S.S.A Conference

Undergraduate students gathered to present their original research recently as part of Georgetown University in Qatar’s Middle Eastern Studies Student Association’s (MESSA) fourth international conference. The event featured student research and discussions by guest speaker under the theme of ‘Power, Influence, and Authority in the Middle East.’

The student-run conference is a dynamic platform that allows students to present their work to an audience of their peers, faculty, staff, and invited guests. The presentations were followed by a question and answer session, allowing audience members to engage with the complexities of the subject matter.

“MESSA’s annual conference provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to showcase their original research and foster academic discussions on a range of topics,” said Dr. Christine Schiwietz, MESSA faculty advisor and assistant dean for academic affairs at GU-Q. “This facilitates academic discussion and informed dialogue and debates on power, foreign policy decisions, and socio-political issues facing the Middle East.”

After calling for submissions from undergraduate researchers, the MESSA student board reviewed all papers in order to ensure that only high quality, innovative research was presented on the day.

“It should either be a new exciting topic, or something from a new perspective, or it should be that you’ve done very hands-on work,” explained Mohammad Taimur Ali Ahmad (SFS’17), chair of the MESSA student board. “The papers we had today covered them… there were some papers that were completely new topics, and some that were typical, but from a new perspective.”

The guest speaker at this year’s event was Jordan Hattar, director of, a non-profit focused on communicating fulfilling and communicating the needs of refugees in Syria and South Sudan. The event also featured the artwork of George Washington University student Emaan Saeed, who joined the attendees via video conferencing from the United States.

The conference rounded out a full week of events organized by the student club, including a public lecture by civil rights activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian, and an exhibition by photographer Mohammed Ismail focused on the Libyan uprising.