24 November 2013

SISMEC Researchers

SISMEC boasts a cadre of prolific early-career scholars analyzing conflicts in the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan through the disciplines of journalism, philosophy, literature, religious studies, history, sociology, and public policy—drawing from extremely diverse ethnic, cultural, religious, ideological, and methodological backgrounds:


Daniel DePetris

Dan has an MA in political science from Syracuse University. His primary research interests include regional conflict, leadership analysis, and conflict resolution in the Middle East–although he has also devoted extensive attention to international terrorism and civil wars. He has worked at the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Policy Studies, and Wikistrat–and contributed to CNN, Foreign Policy, Defense One, and Quartz; he also writes weekly columns for The National Interest and The Hill.

Abe Jimenez

Abe is a MA student at the UA School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, from whence he also earned his BA. His research interests focus on the social and political affects of war trauma from conventional and asymmetric warfare within the Israel-Palestine context.  He is interested in the concepts of “Sumud,” “Resilience,” and issues of religious sovereignty over sacred space. In addition to his work with SISMEC, he serves as an Outreach Intern for Civil Vision International, where he works to build connections with Iraqi refugees in the Tucson area. He also has interests in writing poetry and fiction literature with themes in Middle Eastern History and Culture.

Feras Klenk

Feras is a PhD candidate in the School of Middle East and North African Studies at the University of Arizona. He received his BA in International Studies Middle East/Africa focus from Texas State University and an MA in Middle East Studies-Poli Sci from the University of Utah. His research interests include Arabian/Persian Gulf Studies, Political Economy, and Historical Geography.

Farzana Marie

Farzana is a poet and PhD student at University of Arizona’s School of Middle Eastern and North Africa Studies, where she focuses on Persian Literature and Creative Writing.  She holds a B.S. in Humanities from the U.S. Air Force Academy and M.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.  She served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force for over six years, including two consecutive years deployed in Afghanistan, where she also served as a civilian volunteer at a Kabul orphanage in 2003 and 2004.  She is President of Civil Vision International, a non-profit organization working to positively influence future U.S.-Afghanistan relations through connecting, informing, and inspiring citizens of both countries.

Ahmed Meiloud

Ahmed is a PhD student at the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona, where he obtained an MA  in Near Eastern Studies. He holds a MA in American Studies from the University of Wyoming, where he also completed a one-year TESL practicum as a visiting Fulbright scholar.  His research interests include studying the various movements of political Islam across the Arab World, with special focus on the works of the thinkers, jurists and public intellectuals who shape the moderate strands of Islamism.

Jordan Olmstead

Jordan is an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona studying Political Economy and Middle Eastern Studies. His research explores how subnational groups, particularly in failed and failing states, attempt to build political and economic institutions in bids for greater autonomy or self-determination, with a focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has a broader interest in the evolution of liberal political and economic institutions in the Greater Middle East. He is proficient in Farsi and Urdu.

Brittany Power

Brittany is a MA student in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona. Her interests include Middle Eastern foodways, identity formation, sites of resistance, historical relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians in the Middle East. She writes about food sovereignty/ insecurity, and power relations within conflicted areas of the Middle East.

Amer Taleb

Amer studies journalism at the University of Arizona and serves as a foreign affairs research assistant with the UA’s James E. Rogers College of Law. His current research project focuses on issues related to leadership and adherence to the rule of law in Nigerian politics. He is also an ESL teaching assistant with Horizons for Refugee Families and has was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Fellowship for AY 2015-6. Amer has worked or interned for more than a dozen outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, the AP, Scripps Howard and The Nation. He has been named the UA School of Journalism’s Junior of the Year, the Arizona Newspapers Foundation’s Scholar of the Year and an Arizona Press Club Scholar of the Year. Amer spent last spring in Washington, D.C. reporting on Capitol Hill, including covering Senator Chuck Hagel’s contentious Secretary of Defense hearing. He also founded Tucson Minaret, a news blog about the city’s Arab and Muslim communities which receives thousands of page views monthly, with a print edition circulated to Muslim prisoners throughout Arizona.

Lara Tarantini

Lara is a MA student in the School of Middle East and North African Studies at the University of Arizona. She received her BA in Eastern History, Culture and Civilization, and her MA in Asian and African Languages and Culture, both from the University of Bologna, Italy. Her research interests include contemporary Islamic movements, social media, and EU-North Africa relations.


SISMEC’s Student Research & Reading Group (SISMEC “Surge”) is an initiative to cultivate the next class of outstanding analysts, ensuring institutional continuity across academic generations. Undergraduates and recent graduates collaborate with the senior researchers in order to gain first-hand experience in editing, researching, editorial writing, interviewing and other technical skills through assisting with SISMEC events and interviews, and by contributing to our bi-weekly bulletins. The group also meets regularly to discuss current developments in the MENA region.


Profiles of SISMEC Alumni available here.